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on the 

by SI, 

/I of the 

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Writings on the 

translated with an Introduction 
by Patricia McNutty 

With the publication of this volume the 
first translation of the works of St. Peter 
Damian Into a modem languagethe 
great hiatus in the mystical tradition 
betweeea Gregory the Great aad St. Ber- 
nard of Clairvaux Is closed. One of the 
most dynamic figures of the eleventh cen- 
tury, Damian was noted for a life of holy 
simplicity in the midst of high responsi- 
bility in church affairs. His profoundly 
devout and wide-ranging writings stand 
as a testimony to ta spirituality of his 
age, a crucial one IE the thought and life 
of the church, 

; This Italian Cardinal was not only an 
ecclesiastical statesman but a leader of 
the reform movement in the monasteries 
and in Uu papacy. He was a compas- 
sionate and mderstanding spiritual ad- 
viser to laymei'u -mticipating later writers 
in his belief thu 'til men, not only a 
chosen few, could bid should aspire to 

(Continued ot< *>ack flap) 

No. 9441 A 0260 


248 P62s 60-01993 
Pietro Damiani 
Selected writings on the 
Spiritual life 

248 P62s 60-01993 
Pietro Damiani Gift 
Selected writings on the 
Spiritual life 

St. Peter Damian 

General Editor 

ST. PETER DAMIAN: Selected Writings on the Spiritual JLife, trans- 
lated -with an introduction by Patricia McNulty. 

ST. JOHN CLIMACUS: The Ladder of Divine Ascent ', translated 
by Archimandrite Lazarus with an introduction by M. 

MEISTER ECKKART: Selected Treatises and Sermons* translated 
from Latin and German "with an introduction and notes by 
James M, Clark and John V. Skinner. 

Edited by E. ALLISON PEERS; 

BERNARDINO i>E LAREDO: The Ascent of Mount Sion 9 being 
the third book of the treatise of that name translated -with an 
introduction and notes by E. Allison Peers. 

WALTER HILTON: The Goad of JLove^ an unpublished trans- 
lation of the Stimulus Amoris formerly attributed to St. Bona- 
ventura, now edited from MSS. by Clare Kirchberger. 

HENRY suso: JLiftle Book of Eternal Wisdom and JLittle Book of 
Truth* edited by James M. Clark. 

BLESSED JAN VAN RUYSBROEK: The Spiritual Espousals > 
translated from the Dutch with an introduction by Eric 

RICHARD OF SAINT-VICTOR: Selected Writings on Contempla- 
tion, translated with an introduction and notes by Clare 


Selected Writings on the Spiritual Life 
translated with an Introduction 




New York 

(C< Patricia McNulty 19 J9 

Printed in Great Britain 



PREFACE page 9 


1. St. Peter Daman* s Life and Background n 

2. St. Peter Daman's Ascetical Teaching 26 

(i) The Purpose of Asceticism 26 

(ii) Daman's Ascetical Teaching 3 3 

(iii) The sources of Daman's Ascetical Thought 47 









INDEX 185 


It Is difficult to find in any western spiritual writer between 
St. Gregory the Great and St. Bernard a systematic treatment 
of the theory of the contemplative life. Yet during the six 
centuries still called "dark 5 the tradition established by Augustine 
and Gregory lived and grew in the monasteries of the West 
which preserved so much for us; secretly and quietly, it is true, 
but nevertheless handed down with many other precious things 
to the high middle ages. Its chief exponent in the eleventh 
century was St. Peter Damian. Although he wrote no treatise 
on the contemplative life as such, his writings are strewn with 
references to the contemplative and ascetic lives, and from 
them it is possible to piece together his theory of contem- 

I have chosen three of his treatises and some sermons which 
seem to me to illustrate his theories most clearly. The treatises 
are numbers n, 13 and 58 according to Gaetanfs numbering, 
and are entitled "The Book of "The Lord be with you",' 
*On the Perfection of Monks* and 'Concerning True Happiness 
and Wisdom*. I have also tried to analyse the principles under- 
lying his spirituality. If the result resembles that humble bunch 
of herbs which Damian describes as being given by the im- 
pecunious man to his creditor in lieu of payment the fault is 
mine, not his. His contemplative writings may be as the 
flowers of the hedgerow in comparison with those of St. 
Bernard or Richard of St. Victor, but they are indeed beautiful 
to those who have patience to follow his winding lanes. 

In translating from the Bible I have used the Authorized 
Version wherever possible; otherwise I have had recourse to 
Mgr. R. A. Knox's translation of the Vulgate. Where Damian's 
text differs from both of these, I have made my own 


It gives me great pleasure to acknowledge the unfailing help 
and encouragement of Professor J. M. Hussey and the generous 
advice and assistance of my friends and colleagues Miss N. P, 
Miller and Miss I. Hyde, 



j, St. Peter Damian* s Lzfe and background 

The eleventh century was a notable and crucial age in the 
history of the Western Church. The great figures of that time, 
Hildebrand and Leo IX, Desiderius of Monte-Cassino and 
Lanfranc, Humbert of Silva-Candida, and Peter Damian him- 
self., in his own time Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia and now recog- 
nized as a Doctor of the Church, are in stature as mighty and 
in influence as far-reaching as any of the great ecclesiastics of 
the high middle ages. 

Damian* s life-span covered almost the whole of the first 
three-quarters of the eleventh century. The chief sources for 
our knowledge of his life and work are his own writings and 
the contemporary vita written by his friend and disciple John 
of Lodi; these are supplemented by a few charters and other 
documents relating to the Congregation of Fonte Avellana, 
one or two papal letters, signatures to papal documents and 
isolated references in contemporary chronicles. 

The writings of Peter Damian were first edited early in the 
seventeenth century by Dom Costantino Gaetani. 1 Later work 
has brought to light only four letters and two manuscripts 
unknown to Gaetani, and these have since been published. 2 
Most of the charters relating to the Congregation of Fonte 
Avellana were published by Mittarelli and Costadoni in the 
Annales Camaldulenses. 

The documents which form the basis of any study of 

1 This is the edition used by Migne, Patrologia Latino. 144 and 145, which is at 
present the only available printed version. A critical edition of Damian's works 
is urgently needed. 

8 V. J. Leclercq, e Les ia&lits de S. Pierre Damien' in Revue BtnSdictine, 67, 1957. 



Damian's life and thought are, therefore, by nature bio- 
graphical and subjective, lacking the lapidary impersonality of 
the administrative document or the inscription. The body of 
letters and sermons is distinguished in the first place by its 
literary quality, testifying as it does to an astonishing mastery 
of the Latin tongue and an unusual combination of passion and 
Christian spirituality which have caused Damian to be com- 
pared to St. Jerome. Damian's correspondents include every 
pope from Gregory VI to Alexander II and the most celebrated 
leaders of the contemporary reform movement: Humbert of 
Silva-Candida, Archdeacon Hildebrand, Desiderius of Monte- 
Cassino, Hugh of Cluny and Anno of Cologne, as well as great 
lay person's like the Empress Agnes and the Emperor Henry 
III, and Godfrey, Duke of Tuscany, his wife Beatrice and their 
daughter Matilda. He wrote to all of them concerning the reli- 
gious and moral crises of his day, advising, exhorting and not 
infrequently castigating. But Damian was not only a counsellor 
of popes and princes; he was a loving father to his monks, and 
an affectionate and prudent kinsman and friend. His vast corres- 
pondence shows us every facet of his often bewildering and 
enigmatic, but always impressive and attractive, personality. 

Peter Damian was born in the city of Ravenna, the ancient 
capital of Theodoric the Ostrogoth and of the Byzantine exarch 
after the Italian province had been recaptured by Justinian's 
generals. Throughout its history the city had been famous for 
its connections with and loyalty to the imperium\ not only to the 
glorious Emperors of the East, who had created and adorned 
its splendour, but also to their barbarian usurpers and succes- 
sors. This loyalty had its roots in enlightened self-interest; it 
was based on the claims of the archbishops of Ravenna to metro- 
politan rank and complete independence of the Roman See. 

With the coming of the Ottonian Emperors to Italy, the 
factors which had contributed to the importance of this great 
city emerged once more. The Prankish rulers wanted a firm 
foothold in the north; and the archbishops of Ravenna were 
perfectly prepared to support Ottonian pretensions to imperial 
power in exchange for local independence. When Arnold, half- 



brother to the Emperor Henry II, was placed by his imperial 
kinsman on the archiepiscopal throne Ravenna attained her 
fullest independence and the height of her imperialism. 

But the Ravenna into which Damian was born was notable 
for other things besides its traditional imperial leanings. It was 
the seat of a distinguished school of learning, the most cele- 
brated of whose sons had perhaps been the poet Venantius 
Fortunatus. And it had produced within a short span of time 
three men devoted to the eremitic ideal: Darnian himself, 
St. Romuald, the fons et origo of the north Italian eremitic 
movement, and John of Fecamp, nephew of the great monastic 
reformer William of Volpiano, distinguished abbot of a famous 
house, friend and counsellor of the Empress Agnes, and author 
of the moving 'Deploratio Quietis et Solitudinis Derelictae 5 . 
These aspects of eleventh-century Ravenna its imperial lean- 
ings and tendency to independence of the Papacy, its learned 
tradition and the fact that it was the birthplace of several men 
devoted to the ideal of the solitary life must have had a 
profound influence on Damian. 

It was in or about January 1007 that Damian was born into 
an already large family, a late and not altogether welcome 
arrival. His biographer gives us a lively account of the family 
reaction: 'When his mother brought him, her last child, into 
the world, one of her sons, akeady well-advanced into 
adolescence, cried out in complaint: "For shame! There are 
akeady so many of us that the house will scarcely hold us; and 
what a discrepancy there is between the number of heirs and 
the narrow inheritance!" ? Both parents died when Peter was a 
young child, and he was cared for and educated by his elder 
brother Damian, whose name he afterwards adopted as a sign 
of filial affection; for Damian's love for his youngest brother 
seems to have exceeded even that of a father. Certainly he gave 
him the best education that he could provide. Peter Damian 
spent fifteen years of his life, from his thirteenth to his twenty- 
eighth year, learning and teaching in the schools of northern 
Italy. It may therefore be not out of place to give some account 
of these schools. 


Scholarship and learning in Italy had suffered the same 
vagaries and been threatened by the same perils as in the other 
western regions during the early medieval centuries. Liberal 
studies had to face two great enemies: the barbarian invaders 
and a powerful group within the Church itself whose attitude 
to secular studies might be described as intellectual Manichae- 
ism. But there were two factors at work in Italy which modified 
the effects of these perils and gave to the Italian schools of the 
middle ages a character of their own. The first of these was the 
fact that in Italy Roman civilization and culture were ancient 
and deeply-rooted. The second, which was a consequence of 
this, was that education in Italy never became a clerical prero- 
gative. The line of succession between the imperial schools of 
rhetoric and the medieval scholae publicae remained unbroken. 
Whereas the barbarians of the north and west made use of the 
Church to impose a civilization which was alien to them, those 
who entered Italy were absorbed imperceptibly by a culture 
which was strong enough to survive the assaults which they 
made upon it and to assimilate those forces which at one time 
threatened to extinguish it. 

In the eleventh century the centre of Italian learning and 
culture lay in the north. The school of Parma was the most 
famous in northern and central Italy, being particularly cele- 
brated for its teachers of grammar and law. Among its distin- 
guished grammarians at this time were Homodei and Theo- 
dulf., while Drogo, Geizo and Azo all taught jurisprudence; it 
boasted, too, a celebrated astronomer, Hugo. At Faenza, the 
school was ruled over by the grammarian Rainerius. The 
school of Ravenna had risen under the great Gerbert (later 
Pope Sylvester II) to a position of importance. Law was 
studied there, and its famous grammarian Vilgardus achieved 
notorious mention in the chronicle of Ralph Glaber, who men- 
tions in passing the addiction of the Italians to the study of 
grammar and poetry. In 1023, the school was in charge of 
Petrus Scholasticus, and it is reasonable to assume that he had 
some hand in Damian's education. 

It would be logical, therefore, to suppose that Damian's 



studies were chiefly concerned with grammar, rhetoric and law, 
and his writings everywhere support such a conclusion. The 
style and content of his work show an intimate knowledge of 
and unusual ability in the subjects of the trivium> and he is 
familiar with both civil and canon law. His vast scriptural and 
theological knowledge, however, have their roots in a later 
period of his life when he first went to Fonte Avellana. 

Throughout his student days and during the short time 
which he spent teaching in the school at Ravenna Damian lived 
a life of great austerity, devoting himself to prayer and penance. 
But his was not a nature to be satisfied with half-measures, and 
he soon abandoned his successful teaching career, having 
decided that for him the only way of salvation lay in renuncia- 
tion of the world. His conversion profoundly affected his 
attitude to secular learning; or perhaps it would be truer to say 
that it brought to the surface a latent quality in his spirit. This 
reaction against worldly learning had a twofold basis: the 
violence of his temperament almost inevitably meant that he 
did everything by extremes; but at the same time, when he 
entered die eremitic community at Fonte Avellana he became 
heir to an established ascetic tradition of mistrust of the wise 
ones of this world. This mistrust had its roots in the early his- 
tory of the Church, when Christianity had everything to fear 
from the pagan philosophers and their teachings. Fortunately 
for the future of the western world, this attitude gradually died 
out. But it persisted in certain quarters, and its great strong- 
hold was the ascetic mind. St. Jerome and St. Gregory both 
epitomize it: the former when he quotes the angel's condemna- 
tion, 'Ciceronianus es, non Christianus', and the latter when 
he writes to Desiderius of Vienne: c ln uno ore cum lovis 
laudibus laudes Christi non capiunt.' Such sentiments as these 
were not confined to the barbarian West; they are echoed in 
the writings of eastern ascetics like Symeon the New Theo- 
logian. They illustrate the intellectual dualism to be found 
throughout Christendom. 

It is easy to exaggerate Damian's anti-scholastic tendencies. 
In his attitude to secular learning he was inconsistent; for in 



spite of his condemnation of the 'stulti sapientes' of the schools, 
he put his nephew Damian under the care of a Prankish abbot 
whom he asked to send him back wedded to the twin brides 
of the trivium and quadrivium. Nevertheless, he had no con- 
demnation too strong for monks who occupied themselves 
with secular studies: 'those who join the crowd of gram- 
marians, and forsaking spiritual studies desire to learn the 
follies of worldly knowledge; who think little of the rule of 
Benedict and find their pleasure in the rules of Donatus'. 1 And 
he says to his own brethren: 'Would that you were unable to 
say: "The laws of Justinian are better to us than any gold or 
silver/' * The study of grammar, which involved a deep know- 
ledge of the pagan poets, and of civil law, which aroused too 
great an interest in worldly affairs, seemed to him to be con- 
trary to the true monastic spirit, and wholly irrelevant to the 
goal of the monastic life: the vision of God. 'Who lighteth a 
lantern that he may see the sun, or candles that he may behold 
the glory of the stars ?* 

His years of teaching at Ravenna brought to a close the first 
half of Damian's life; when he entered the monastery of Fonte 
Avellana in 103 5 he was nearly thirty years of age. He brought 
to his new vocation a powerful and trained intelligence, a 
temperament at once violent and austere and a fierce zeal for 
his own holiness and for the salvation of others. It would seem 
too that he brought a reputation for austerity and piety, since 
we are told by his biographer that as soon as he asked for 
admittance to the monastery of Fonte Avellana he was assigned 
to a spiritual director, and very soon afterwards clothed with 
the cowl, the symbol of full membership of the community, 
which was not usually worn until after a period of probation. 
Perhaps the small and struggling community wished to make 
sure that Damian did not leave them too swiftly; the brilliant 
young teacher from Ravenna would have been an adornment 
to any of the great houses of his day. 

1 Aelius Donatus was the most celebrated grammarian of trie fourth century 
and the master of St. Jerome. He wrote two treatises on grammar, the Ars Minor 
and the Ars Major, which were standard text-books in the medieval schools. 



Damian's own writings and John's life of him give a clear 
picture of his early years at Fonte Avellana. From the moment 
of his entry his austere zeal for ascetic practices and his intent- 
ness in prayer astounded his brethren. The monks lived two 
by two in cells 'unremitting in spiritual combat both by night 
and day, armed with the indefeasible weapons of psalmody, 
prayer, reading, abstinence and obedience*. 1 On four days of 
the week they ate nothing but bread, water and salt, sup- 
plemented on the other three by a few vegetables which they 
cooked for themselves in their cells; wine was used only for 
the Holy Sacrifice and for the sick. They went barefoot within 
the hermitage winter and summer alike. 

The house of Fonte Avellana lay then, as its deserted build- 
ings do today, on the lower slopes of Mount Catria, a lofty 
Apennine peak which stands some fifteen miles north-west of 
the episcopal city of Gubbio, in a wild and beautiful country- 
side. In the eleventh century the building consisted of a church 
(its crypt still remains) and cloister, a scriptorium and other 
offices, and, close to the church, the cells in which some of the 
brethren lived in pairs. Further afield, scattered on the higher 
slopes, must have stood the cells of those who lived a life of 
strict seclusion, and who only left their solitude to join in the 
common worship of the community on Sundays and great 

The community consisted of three groups: the professed 
brethren, of whom some at least were priests, and who lived 
either as recluses in the more distant cells or, if their duties 
demanded it, in the monastic cells close to the church; the 
novices, each of whom was placed under the tutelage of one of 
the brethren, who instructed him in spiritual discipline and 
was responsible for his welfare; and the lay-brethren who 
performed most of the manual labour. Most of Damian's 
monastic experience was as a member of the first group: that 
is to say, either as a recluse or as an official of the community 
living a quasi-monastic life. 

There were probably not more than a dozen reclusi at any 

3 John of Lodi, Vita Beats Petri Damiaw t 0.5. 
B 17 


one time. They spent their days in their cells except on Sundays 
and important feasts, when they took part in the liturgical 
worship of the community. These rough wooden or stone 
cells contained only the barest necessities: a straw palliasse, a 
tough bench and table, and a few cooking utensils and tools, 
together with such books as were necessary: a psalter, a 
breviary and a text from the scriptorium for spiritual reading. 
Their day was spent in the recitation of the Divine Office, 
private prayer, reading and manual labour. The problems 
raised by the recitation of the public ptayer of the church in 
solitude were very real and troublesome to some of the hermits, 
and it was to resolve their difficulties that Damian wrote the 
Liber de Dommus Vobiscum which is translated here. Besides the 
general task of liturgical prayer, it was the custom of the 
congregation to recite daily the whole of the psalter for the 
faithful on earth, and as much as possible of a second psalter 
for the faithful departed. The recitation of the canonical hours 
and this dual reading of the psalter must have occupied a very 
considerable proportion of their waking hours, probably six 
or seven hours daily. They spent about two hours a day in 
reading and another two or three in manual labour. The type 
of manual labour performed depended on individual aptitude; 
Damian himself spent much time in writing and in correcting 
the codices in the scriptorium, while John of Lodi was an 
active copier of manuscripts. The purpose of such labour was 
not material, but spiritual benefit: it was an aid to concentra- 
tion and warded off the attacks of the noonday devil of acedia 
or despondency. It is possible that on fast-days no manual 
labour was performed; die time thus saved was probably spent 
in private prayer and meditation. 

Those of the brethren who lived two in a cell, close to the 
church, led a life similar in its essentials to that of the recluses, 
the chief difference being that they sang the canonical hours in 
choir. This demanded a slightly less austere regime, since the 
proper performance of the opus Dei could not be combined 
with the incredibly severe fasts of the solitaries. Besides, this 
group had other duties to perform, since it included the 



officers of the monastery, the directors of the novices and the 
novices themselves. 

The monastery of St. Andrew was, when Damian entered it, 
struggling for its very existence, and this situation continued 
until after he became prior. At that time he wrote to the arch- 
bishop of Ravenna: 'In taking upon myself the government of 
this poor little place I, who was previously poor in myself 
alone, am now poor also in the persons of all those whom I 
rule. I know what it is to be responsible for others and to lack 
the means of supplying their needs.* But the necessary austeri- 
ties imposed by the harsh way of life and the indigence of the 
Avellanese community did not satisfy Damian's hunger for 
mortification; he added to the prescribed penitences and abstin- 
ences many others, until his health was gravely weakened. 
The chief cause of damage seems to have been lack of 
sleep, which brought about some sort of violent headache 
and fever. When he had recovered from this illness he 
moderated his ascetical practices and spent the time thus saved 
in equipping himself with a knowledge of the scriptures and 
of theology. 

It was hardly to be expected that no demands would be made 
upon such learning and holiness; all his life, Damian's abilities 
and zeal were to take him on weary journeys and into uncon- 
genial environments on the business of the Church and for the 
salvation of others, when he himself wished only to be quiet 
in his cell, among his books, following without interruption 
those ways which would bring him at last to rest in the contem- 
plation of the Godhead. His inevitable future was very soon 
apparent. First he was commanded by the prior to preach to 
his own brethren; then, as his reputation spread, the heads of 
nearby houses asked that he be sent to their monasteries to 
instruct the brethren. So he went, at the request of Abbot 
Guido, to Pomposa, 'to supply the brethren with the nourish- 
ment of the holy word'. Here he remained for two years, until 
recalled to Fonte Avellana by the prior. He also spent some 
time at the monastery of St. Vincent, similarly engaged in 
teaching and preaching. On his second return to his own house 


he was made procurator, and after the death of his master 
about 1042 he became prior in his stead. 

The accession of Peter Damian to the priorate marked a new 
beginning for the hitherto unimportant Avellanese community, 
which now embarked upon a period of expansion and pros- 
perity. His fame as a teacher and reformer had brought 
Damian into contact with many important laymen and clerics, 
and these men and women became the benefactors of his house. 
New recruits came to Mount Catria, among them John of 
Lodi himself; and Damian went on to found hermitages else- 
where; at Suavicina, near Camerino, at Sitria and Monte Acuto 
near Gubbio, at Acereta and Gamugnio near Faenza, at Campo- 
reggiano, near Perugia, and at Murciano near Rimini. He pre- 
sided over and regularly visited this congregation of monas- 
teries and hermitages until his death; his rule, even when the 
pressure of business meant that it had to be exercised through 
delegates, was absolute and fatherly, as his letters to various 
houses and their heads and the surviving charters of this period 
show. But Fonte Avellana itself remained his home and held 
his special affection. John of Lodi tells us: 'He visited the house 
and community of the Holy Cross at Fonte Avellana as often 
as he could, for it was dearer to him than all others. He could 
not forget those with whom he had dwelt from the beginning 
of his life in religion, and whom the Master's command had 
committed to his care. 5 

But the times were too critical, and Damian's own zeal and 
ability too great, for him to remain in the quiet of Fonte Avel- 
lana ruling his congregation and pursuing the way of perfec- 
tion in solitude. The crisis in the Church was approaching its 
peak, and it was not in Damian's nature to rest in a backwater 
and watch the main current of affairs flowing past him, how- 
ever deeply he may have desired such seclusion. Already in the 
early years of his priorate he had emerged as one of the leading 
ecclesiastical figures of northern Italy, corresponding with 
Gregory VI and Clement II about the needs of the Ravennese 
province, and welcoming with joy the reforming activities of 
the Emperor Henry III in the north. Nor was he unaware, 



even at this time, of the wider issues at stake. His earliest 
recorded letter, written to the cardinal deacon Peter, shows 
that the central issue of reform was clear to him: 'Unless the 
Roman See returns to the right way it is certain that the whole 
world will remain in error. And it is necessary that she who 
was the foundation of the development of human salvation 
should also be the source of its renewal.' 1 But he did not yet see 
this problem as one of liberating the papacy from imperial 
control, and perhaps he was never to do so; for he knew Ger- 
man cesaropapism only at its best, in the persons of Henry III 
and the saintly Empress Agnes. Nevertheless, although his 
conception of the relationship of the two powers was Gelasian, 
and although he could never have subscribed to the theocratic 
idea of papal government expressed by such men as Innocent 
IV, Damian was one of the most ardent supporters of the re- 
formed papacy, for it was as clear to him as to any of his con- 
temporaries that the Church could only be saved from within 
and above. It was partly a certain political innocence and 
naivete which led him to believe that Pope and Emperor could 
and should work in unruffled concord to bring Christ's body 
back to its proper and pristine state. The problems raised by 
tangled and conflicting interests, of Pope and Emperor, Nor- 
man and German, Godfrey of Lorraine and Anno of Cologne, 
did not concern him. But there was more than this in his 
attitude. Himself so single-mindedly concerned for the things 
of God and of the spirit, he was reluctant to believe that 
others' desires and interests were less admirable. For so 
eminent a legate and cardinal, one who had close contacts 
both with the papal curia and with leading laymen, he retained 
a surprising amount of holy simplicity. 

Damian's prestige was not sufficiently high at the time of the 
accession of Leo IX to the pontificate in 1049 for him to be 
called in immediately as an indispensable helper in the work 
of the reformed papal court. He probably made his first appear- 
ances at the annual synods of this time as a right-minded sup- 
porter of the new ecclesiastical policy from the north; and once 
"*Episfola8 lib. H, 19. PX. 144, 288. 


he had made an entry his talents did the rest. It is clear from 
his sermons and letters that he had a genius for hortatory 
preaching which, combined with his obvious sincerity and 
goodness, must have been both irresistible and terrifying. And 
we know that he was not afraid to speak his mind to any man 
on earth when an issue of moral principle was involved; the 
Roman pontiff and the German ruler were no exceptions to 
this rule. The "monitor of the popes' as he has been called, 
used his literary powers to good advantages in Leo's ponti- 
ficate and contributed two important treatises to the repertory 
of reform, each dealing with one of the two great evils of his 
time: clerical immorality and simony. The Liber Gomorrhianus 
painted an appalling picture of the decay and degeneracy of the 
priesthood, while the Liber Gratissimus was a reasoned and 
charitable contribution to one of the difficult and controversial 
problems of the age: the validity of simoniacal orders. It is, 
however, possible that both writings aroused opposition in 
papal circles, the first by its outspokenness and the second 
because it conflicted with the views of the eminent Lorraine 
reformer Cardinal Humbert of Silva-Candida, who held that 
ordinations administered by simoniacs were invalid. Such 
opposition may account for the comparative neglect of 
Damian by Leo during the later years of his pontificate; on the 
other hand, this may be due to the fact that the Pope was 
absent from Italy for long periods during this time. 

Peter Damian emerged once again from his retirement during 
the pontificate of Stephen IX (1057-58). At this time the in- 
fluence of his friend Hildebrand was growing at Rome, and it 
would seem that he was responsible for Datnian's elevation to 
the cardinal-bishopric of Ostia by Stephen. Damian himself 
was extremely reluctant to take upon himself the pastoral care 
and the press of administrative business involved in the charge 
of the senior cardinal-bishopric and membership of the Sacred 
College; it appears that he only yielded to Stephen's demand 
under threat of excommunication. This honour took him 
another step away from that solitude and recollection which 
were for him the instruments of spiritual perfection. But it is 



to his credit that he did not stand aside or refuse to aid the 
Roman Church in her need. The see of Ostia itself called for 
little of his time; it was a decaying seaport which had declined 
still further during the Saracen harryings of the Italian coast; 
perhaps if it had been a more adequate field for his labours 
Damian would have been less anxious to resign his charge there 
in order to return to his monastery. This deske of his to leave 
his diocese was not, however, to be satisfied until Alexander 
XFs time, and even then he was not relieved of his duties as 
bishop and cardinal, as his legatine work and his own letters 
clearly show. He wrote to Alexander in 1063: 'You have said 
that I should not, because of my great desire for the life of 
contemplation, neglect to write to you from time to time. As 
far as you are concerned, venerable father, who have agreed to 
the laying down of my episcopal burden, I would indeed have 
leisure for both contemplation and letter-writing, but I am 
never free from the press of business. It is true that my cell is 
a haven to me, and that when I am there I have found the 
safety of the shore. But to what end ? For when I am there, 
desiring only tranquillity and peace, and thinking myself safe, 
I am smitten by die winds of this savage world and over- 
whelmed more than ever by the rising tide of affairs. . . . Those 
who require counsel for their souls' health are not lacking; 
what is still harder, men still strive to extract a pontifical deci- 
sion from me, who am no longer a bishop. All my endeavour 
takes place within the walls of such troubles; I strive, but my 
strength is almost at an end. I cannot reach the heights of 
contemplation; I do not burst into tears of compunction. My 
mind, overshadowed by the darkness of worldly affairs, en- 
deavours in vain to reach the heights of contemplation; it is 
weighed down by the business of this world as if with piles of 
stones/ 1 He paid a heavy price for his work among the 

Damian's work as legate began in 1059, when he was sent by 

Pope Nicholas II to Milan to deal with the difficult situation 

which had arisen there as a result of the growth of a popular 

1 Epistolae lib. 15. P.L. 144, 225-6. 



movement for clerical reform. The opposition of the Patarines, 
as the popular party was called, to the worldly lives of the 
Milanese clergy, who were frequently both simoniac and 
married, had become an open revolt. His work as papal legate 
(a task which he shared with Anselm of Lucca, later Pope 
Alexander II) was complicated by the traditional hostility of 
the Church of Milan, which had always claimed an Ambrosian 
independence, to any interference from Rome. By his splendid 
oratory Damian convinced the Milanese of the justice of the 
claim of the papacy to intervene in the affairs of local churches: 
'What province of all the kingdoms of the earth lies outside 
her authority? ... All patriarchs, all metropolitans, all bishop- 
rics, and the dignities of all the churches were established by 
kings or emperors or other men; their special powers were 
given them by those men according to their power or desire to 
do so; He who founded the Church of Rome on the rock of the 
newborn faith was He who gave to the keeper of the keys of 
life everlasting the rights of heavenly and earthly rule.' 1 
Having won their respect, Damian proceeded to deal merci- 
fully with the Milanese clergy, putting into practice the prin- 
ciples concerning simoniacal orders which he had expressed in 
the Liber Gratissimus. And, as J. P. Whitney has pointed out, 2 
he was glad of an opportunity to bring pressure to bear on the 
bishops, who had been too easily pardoned in the past by the 
popes. Shortly afterwards, in April 1059, Damian was present 
at the Lateran synod which proclaimed the famous Election 
decree, asserting the right of the cardinal clergy, and no others, 
to make elections to the See of Peter. He was one of the 
witnesses to this important document. 

After the death of Nicholas II in 1061 there was another 
ecclesiastical crisis. An antipope, Cadalus of Parma, had been 
elected in opposition to Alexander II, and Damian wrote 
several letters in the next few years castigating this 'evil priest, 
the ruin of the people'. 'Were you born', he asks him, 'to wage 
war on the world, to destroy the work and labours of the 

1 Aldus Mediolanensis. P.L. 145, 91. 

2 J. P. Whitney, Hildebrandine Essays, p. 140. 



Apostles, and to ruin the whole Church of Christ by your 
ambition?' fie was a good friend to Alexander II, although his 
influence with that pope was probably eclipsed by that of 
Hildebrand, and relations between them were not always easy. 
The closeness of the friendship between Damian and Alexander 
is perhaps rather curiously illustrated by the fact that Damian 
spoke his mind even more frankly to him than to any other 
pope; when asked by Alexander why the lives of the bishops 
of Rome were usually so short, he replied that it was because 
the Lord wished to keep them properly humble. It was 
Alexander who despatched him, in 1063, to act as papal legate 
and settle the acrimonious dispute between the monastery of 
Cluny and Drogo, bishop of Macon. On behalf of the papacy 
Damian upheld Cluny's claim to exemption from episcopal 

His third great legatine mission took place in 1069, when he 
was an ageing and frail man of sixty-two. He was sent by 
Alexander to Frankfurt, to prevent Henry IV from divorcing 
his wife Bertha. Again, his formidable combination of saintli- 
ness and oratorical power won the day. After this, for the last 
two years of his life, he was allowed to rest in peace at his 
beloved Fonte Avellana. None of his datable writings come 
from this period, but we may be allowed to believe that, having 
attained at last the leisure which he had so long desired and 
which he had freely sacrificed that the Church of God might 
be restored to her pristine purity, he found that peace and 
delight in the contemplation of the Godhead which were for 
him the end of all earthly striving. Yet he was not to die where 
he had longed to live. At the beginning of 1072 Alexander 
commanded him once more to undertake a legatine journey, 
this time to his own mother-church of Ravenna, which was in 
a not unusual state of turbulence and indiscipline. Once more 
he accomplished his work well, and having accomplished it 
died while journeying to Rome at the monastery of St. Mary 
at Faenza, entering at last into the joy of his Lord. 

But Damian was more than an exhorter of monks and an 
ecclesiastical statesman. He was one of the first and greatest 



advocates of the regular canonical life for cathedral clergy; he 
was a compassionate and understanding spiritual adviser to 
laymen, and anticipated the twelfth-century spiritual writers in 
his belief that all men, and not only a chosen few, could and 
should aspire to that life of perfection which had previously 
been regarded as the prerogative of the monk. He was the 
precursor of later devotion to the Blessed Virgin and to the 
Passion and Cross of Christ. He was, too, a considerable poet; 
his 'Hymnus de gloria paradisi' is singularly beautiful. He was 
many men in one, and sometimes we feel the conflict between 
them. Darnian might well have said with Sir Thomas Browne: 
'There is another man within me that is angry with me/ 

Yet this apparently enigmatic man, fierce fighter for his 
cause and kind and tender friend and kinsman, scholarly 
scorner of the world's wisdom, hermit and cardinal, passionate 
ascetic, a man never sure of the love of any man, stood never- 
theless on firm ground. The whole pattern of his life was 
determined, from the first vivid picture which we have of him 
dining with the blind beggar to his holy death, by that love of 
God which led him to seek His face while still within the body 
of this death. It is in his theory of the contemplative life that 
apparent contradictions are resolved. 

2, St. Peter Damian's Ascetical Teaching 


Christian asceticism is directed to one end, the enjoyment of 
the visio Dei, and the ascetic life can only be understood in 
relation to this end; therefore, if Damian's ascetical teaching is 
to be seen in its true light, it must be so considered. Was he a 
contemplative in the tradition of Augustine and Gregory? 
Were his incredible penances, his severe rule of life and his 
defence of flagellation the fruit of a burning love of God and a 



desire for the exquisite delight of mystic union, or was he in 
fact a cold, austere figure, a mere master of negative asceticism, 
a masochist with an almost Manichaean hatred of the flesh, as 
he has sometimes been pictured ? It was not hardness of heart 
that led him to shun the delights of human society, for, as has 
rightly been said, it is not the man whose senses are blunt who 
makes the sternest ascetic. All his actions sprang from the 
fervour of his love for God; it was this that moulded his mind 
and character. He was in the truest sense a contemplative. 

Dante Alighieri recognized this quality in him. The poet 
spent some time at Fonte Avellana, and could not fail to imbibe 
something of the spirit of its second founder. When, in the 
Paradiso> Damian draws near to the poet as he beholds Jacob's 
ladder, thronged with bright spirits, which stretches up from 
Saturn, the latter says to him: *Io veggio ben Famor che tu 
m'accene', and the saint later describes his life at Fonte Avel- 
lana to Dante in the following words: 

'. . . Quivi 

al servigio di Dio mi fei si fermo 
che pur con cibi di liquor d'ulivi 
lievemente passava caldi e gieli, 
contento nei pensier contemplativi.' 1 

Commenting on Dante's remarks, J. P. Whitney said: 'Damian 
is the type of the contemplative life which comes nearest to 
God, and is therefore most useful to man. If we take this as the 
centre of Damian's personality, all his activities and his writ- 
ings fall into their proper place. Instead of accidental denun- 
ciations of corruptions and evils, isolated comments on theo- 
logical or clerical life, we have a coherent whole, a full ex- 
pression of a well-ordered personality. If to most people he is 
merely an ascetic, and a prophet of asceticism, he himself 
valued the ascetic life as a help to contemplation, and as 
necessary to ensure its perfection.' 

But the best answer to the critics is Damian's own. At the 
beginning of the eighth chapter of the De Perfections Mona- 
1 Dante, Diviw Commedia, Paradiso, Canto xxi, 


chorum> he defines the purpose of the monastic life: 'Our whole 
new way of life and our renunciation of the world has but one 
end: rest. But a man can only come to this state of rest if he 
stretches his sinews in many labours and strivings, so that 
when all the clamour and disturbance is at an end the soul may 
be lifted up by the grace of contemplation to search for the 
very face of truth.' Who serves God, he asks, that he may 
endure toil and hardship and suffer temptation? All who seek 
God do so with one hope and expectation: that they may find 
rest, and sleep in the joys of contemplation as though in the 
arms of the lovely Rachel. 

This, then, is the end of the religious life. For although 
Damian does not regard the grace of contemplation as the sole 
prerogative of those living the monastic life, he believes that 
it is most surely attained in the cloister. Men, like the children 
of Israel long ago, must go forth into the desert if they are to 
see the pillar of light which is Christ; and the body of monks 
has this in common with the wandering Hebrews. So he writes 
to the monks of Cluny: c As a fiery light shone in the night's 
darkness upon those wandering in the desert, so those who 
dwell in spiritual monasteries are often lightened by the rays 
of a supernal light, which dispels the darkness of fleshly 
passions and bathes them in the brilliance of inward contem- 
plation.' 1 The parallel is carried still further in his thought. 
For him, those who literally choose the desert, who seek the 
solitude of the hermitage, are putting themselves even more 
surely in the way of such grace than their cenobitic brethren. 
He believes that of all forms of religious life the eremitic is the 
most perfect; even when he praises the spirituality of Cluny, 
it is because its monks might almost be hermits. The contem- 
plative must be a solitary at least in spirit; Damian holds, with 
Catherine of Siena, that knowledge of the Godhead does not 
come *senza 1'abitatione della cella del cuore e dell' anima 

In what did contemplation consist for Peter Damian ? Like 
all other great mystics, he desired union with God. The con- 
1 Epistohe lib. vi, 5. P.L. 144, 381. 


templative life has been described in the following words: 
'The mystics' claim has been expressed by the Christian mystics 
as "the experimental perception of God's presence and being" 
and especially "union with God" a union, that is to say, not 
merely psychological, in conforming the will to God's will, but, 
it may be said, ontological, of the soul with God, spirit with 
spirit. And they declare that the experience is a momentary 
foretaste of the bliss of Heaven.' 1 

Certainly Damian believed that the holy man can see his 
Creator while still in the body of this death, and that he can be 
mystically united to Him in spiritual wedlock. He says so quite 
clearly in a letter to Desiderius: 'Holy men are able to look 
even now upon their Creator by the grace of contemplation/ 
He goes on to say that this glimpse of God is necessarily in- 
complete, but this does not make the statement any the less 
striking in itself. Again, writing to his beloved Empress Agnes, 
he speaks of the mystical marriage of contemplation, and prays 
that its grace may be vouchsafed to her: 'May Christ hold con- 
verse with you; may he be your comrade and your guest . . 
may he clasp you in his virginal embrace, so that in you also 
the words of Isaiah may be fulfilled: "As the bridegroom 
rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee." 
Secure in his embraces may you sweetly rest, so that He may 
offer as if to Himself a haven of inward peace Who vouchsafed 
to suffer shipwreck for you amid the rising storms of this 

Like his predecessors, Damian makes use of many analogies 
in an endeavour to describe the contemplative state; like them 
too, he has recourse above all to two images. The first and 
most frequent is that of light. That which the mystic beholds 
in contemplation he calls, in various places, 'the light of 
eternity', 'the light of contemplation', 'the heavenly light', 'the 
splendour of inward contemplation'. He is illumined 'by the 
shining rays of the Divine light'. This is the language of the 
early western contemplatives; he makes no mention of rays of 
Divine darkness or dark nights of the soul, but is true to 
1 Cuthbert Butler, Western Mysticism, prologue. 
2 9 


the tradition of what has been called Benedictine asceticism. 
His second analogy has an equally long and distinguished 
history. By it, the contemplative state is described as a spiritual 
marriage. Two examples will suffice as illustration. The first is 
again addressed to the Empress Agnes: *It remains for you to 
come to the innermost sweetness of your husband (Christ), to 
that delightful union of conjoined spirits'; 1 the other comes 
from a letter to a fellow-bishop: 'When any holy soul is truly 
joined to its Redeemer by love, then it is united with Him as 
if on the bridal couch in a bond of intimate delight.' 2 

His words leave no doubt that for him the vision of God is 
the aim of the ascetic life. But he does not claim that this vision 
is enjoyed by the contemplative still imprisoned in the bonds 
of the flesh in exactly the same manner as it is by the blessed in 
Heaven. Something is inevitably lacking; a magnum aliquid, as 
he described it to Desiderius, to which man's spirit cannot 
aspire while it remains within the corruptible body. In an 
admirable and striking passage he compares the soul to a flying- 
fish; with the aid of the wings of virtue it leaps from the con- 
fining waters into the heavenly air of contemplation, yet must 
of its nature always fall back into the sea of everyday human 

It must be stressed that Damian did not regard contempla- 
tion as the prerogative of the intellectual. It was not an eso- 
teric science, though it demanded discipline and method, but a 
way of life as accessible to the simple and unlettered as to the 
scholar: 'There are some simple brethren who do not know 
the meaning of contemplation, and therefore cannot exert 
themselves in spiritual studies; but when they make them- 
selves utterly dead to the world, and strive to wear themselves 
out in labours for obedience' sake, and long in all things to 
obey their superiors they obtain a place very near to God.' 3 
Indeed, mere worldly learning could be a hindrance rather than 
a help to contemplation; certainly it was not essential. 'Who 

1 opusc. 56, 6. P.L. 145, 815. 

2 Epistolae lib. iv, 16. PX. 144, 333. 
8 Epistolae lib. ii, 12. P,L. 144, 280. 



lights a lantern that he may seen the sun, or candles that he 
may behold the glory of the stars ?' 2 asks Damian. 

Contemplation, then, is the visio Dei here on earth; it is the 
beholding of the face of truth, albeit imperfectly; it is attain- 
able by all who desire it and strive for it; its root is love of 
God, its stem the mortification of flesh and spirit, its fruit the 
sweetness of the mystic union, its flower an all-embracing 
charity. But although he maintains that it can be granted to 
anyone, Damian never fails to remind us that it is a charisma, 
a grace freely given, bestowed or withheld by God as He sees 
fit. He speaks always of "the grace of contemplation', of 'the 
things which it was given to me to behold'. Here is no Pelagian 
reliance on the will and power of man; the ascetic must strive, 
but he must also pray. Contemplation is a gift, not a virtue. 

The preparations which the would-be contemplative must 
make, the spiritual journey to that point from which he may 
see, by God's grace, those things which eye has not seen, nor 
ear heard and which the heart of man cannot conceive, are 
described by Damian in the form of an analogy dear to all 
mystical writers from St. Augustine onwards; that of the two 
wives of Jacob, Leah and Rachel. He divides his comparison 
into three sections. The first, represented by the first of 
Jacob's periods of bondage to Laban, is the first rung of the 
contemplative ladder, the destruction of vice by means of 
obedience to the commandments of the Old Law; this is what 
ascetical theologians describe as the purgative stage. He who 
passes through it successfully hopes to come at once to the 
delights of contemplation; but this cannot be. Instead of the 
lovely Rachel, he must marry her elder sister Tor in the dark- 
ness of human ignorance we are enjoined to be patient in 
labour*. The second stage, represented by the second period of 
Jacob's servitude, consists in the implanting of virtues; the 
monk passes from a slavish obedience to the precepts of the 
Decalogue to a free adherence to the counsels of the New 
Testament; for perseverance in good works must be estab- 
lished before the repose of contemplation can be granted. At 

2 Opusc* 45, 8. P.L. 145, 701-2. 



last, after years of toil and weariness, Jacob wins Rachel; the 
seeker after God is given the grace of contemplation. But he 
cannot rest there in peace. Rachel is beautiful but barren; and 
like Jacob the monk must continue to be fruitful in good 
works. Damian makes this point even clearer when he com- 
pares the contemplative to Moses going in and out of the 
Temple of the Covenant: *He goes in and out of the temple to 
show us that he who is inwardly rapt in contemplation is often 
outwardly troubled by the affairs of the needy; within he con- 
templates the hidden things of God, but outwardly he bears 
the burdens of carnal things.' 1 

But how far were his teachings based upon personal ex- 
perience ? To those who have some knowledge of his writings 
there can be no doubt that Peter Damian was a true contem- 
plative. As Dom Leclercq says: 'The fervour and beauty and 
freshness of his language are certain indications of personal 
experience.' 2 It was the vision of God that he sought and found 
in the rocky solitude of Fonte Avellana. 'I longed to cleave 
with all my heart to the everlasting light. My heart then, as It 
seemed, was made of wax, as that of the Lord's prophet was of 
flesh; and it melted in flame under the breath of heavenly 
desire, and my sorrowing countenance was often watered by 
rich tears. ... I often beheld, by an immediate perception of 
my mind, Christ hanging from the cross, fastened with nails, 
and thirstily received His dripping blood in my mouth. But if 
I were to attempt to tell you of the heights of contemplation 
which were vouchsafed to me, both of our Redeemer's most 
sacred humanity and of the indescribable glory of Heaven, the 
day would be at an end before I had finished.' 3 

It was because the burdens and racketings of life outside the 
monastery, even of ecclesiastical life, shattered the spiritual 
quiet so necessary to the pursuit of contemplation that Damian 
partook with reluctance in the ecclesiastical politics of his day. 
He was forced to accept the cardinalate thrust upon him by 

1 Epistolae lib. ii, 12. P.L. 144, 282. 

2 J. Leclercq, Contemplation' in Dictionnaire de Spirituality t.H 
8 Opusf. 19. P.L. 145, 432. 



Stephen IX, but he spent the ten years after the latter's death 
in trying to rid himself of his episcopal burden. He went on 
papal legations when the good of the Church demanded it; he 
attended many of the important synods held by Leo IX, 
Nicholas II and Alexander II, but he paid the price in the loss 
of that tranquillity which he so greatly prized as a means to con- 
templation, and did not hesitate to point this out to those who 
charged him with the affairs of the Church. It was perhaps for 
this reason that the glimpses which Damian gives us of those 
moments of grace when he was rapt in contemplation are rare. 
But he has a great deal to say about the long and arduous 
preparation for the mystical life, chiefly in the letters and 
sermons addressed to his monks, and his ascetical teaching was 
a vital factor in the life of his own and later generations. 


The ascetic life is frequently described as an ascent towards 
contemplation; if we conceive of it as a ladder, we may say that 
it has three rungs: the mortification of the flesh, the discipline 
of the spirit, and the way of prayer. But such distinctions are, 
in a sense, both arbitrary and artificial, since these stages are 
not successive; they must, indeed, be simultaneous. Neither is 
the ascent of the ascetical ladder in itself a guarantee that the 
contemplative state will be reached; it merely brings the 
aspirant to that point of departure from which God will, if He 
so desires, raise him to the heights of mystic union. However, 
the analogy enables us to distinguish what cannot be divided: 
the different aspects of the ascetic life. Damian deals exten- 
sively both with mortification, by which he means the discip- 
line of the will as well as of the body, and with prayer. These 
are sometimes called the negative and positive aspects of 
asceticism, but the description is not altogether satisfactory, 
for it may be doubted whether mortification as taught and 
practised by the great contemplatives was a purely negative 

The subjection of the flesh and the discipline of the will are 

c 33 


fundamental to Damian's conception of the monastic life; they 
are essential because, by destroying earthly desires, they enable 
the monk to concentrate all his affections upon God. He sums 
up the virtues of the religious life as 'fervent love of God and 
mortification of self and proceeds to show that the two are 
interdependent: *If those words of the Apostle "always bearing 
about in our bodies the dying of the Lord Jesus" really lived 
in us, all our delight would of necessity be in God, since 
fleshly love would have nowhere to spread within us; our 
leaping fire would burn there with Him, since it would find no 
room within ourselves.' 1 

The prudent man, he who is intent on his salvation, will 
gird his loins with the girdle of perfect mortification; 'he 
achieves this when the greedy gullet is kept in check; when the 
wanton tongue is compelled to be silent; when the ears are shut 
to scandalmongering; when the eyes are forbidden to look 
upon unlawful things; when the hand is bound, for fear it 
should strike another cruelly, and the foot, lest it should 
wander idly; when the heart is withstood, for fear it should 
envy the prosperity of another, or desire and covet that which 
is not its own, lest it should be cut off from brotherly love by 
anger, or raise itself above others in its pride, or succumb to 
the delights of enticing pleasure; lest it should be too much 
weighed down by grief or lay itself open to the seductions of 
joy. Since, then, the human mind cannot be utterly empty, but 
must always be concerned with love of something, it must be 
completely surrounded by this wall of virtue; that which is not 
permitted to expand in its own surroundings must necessarily 
be carried above itself.' 

From this passage two concepts emerge which are of the 
utmost importance if Damian's ascetical doctrine is to be fully 
understood. The first is the stress laid on love of one's fellows 
as an essential part of spiritual discipline. This is a concept 
common to all great writers; but it is emphasized here because 
too many have seen in Peter Damian only a barren and inward- 
turning asceticism. It is true that he repeats the invectives of 
. 13, 2. PX. 145, 294. 


the early ascetic Fathers against the passions of greed and lust; 
'sit in thy cell and restrain thy tongue and thy belly' is his 
maxim, as it was theirs, but he does not consider it to be suffi- 
cient in itself. We shall see later that he held that the body 
should be severely disciplined; his defence of flagellations, 
fastings and vigils is worthy of the master 'athletes' of the 
Thebaid. It is therefore the more remarkable that here, 
when discussing the essentials of the ascetic discipline, he 
should be so much more concerned with the practice of virtue 
than with any merely corporal penance. The monk must not 
be arrogant or angry or jealous, not merely because by re- 
straining evil passions he mortifies his will, but for fear he 
should be cut off from the love of the brotherhood. This 
emphasis on charity ennobles the whole concept of mortifica- 

Secondly, this passage is a vivid demonstration of Damian' s 
belief that mortification is only valid if pursued as a means to 
contemplation. The human spirit must love, for loving is its 
natural activity; therefore its loving must be confined within a 
wall of virtue, so that it may rise only to God. There is nothing 
Manichaean in this frugality, this renunciation, this castigation 
of the flesh; c God forbid that we should condemn anything 
which God has made', says Damian. It is a question of sur- 
rendering a lesser good that we may come to possess a greater. 

Besides this basic reason for the practice of mortification, 
there are two others: the imitative and the penitential motives. 
Suffering is good because Christ suffered; what He endured 
for us we too should be prepared to undergo for His sake. In 
his sermon for the Feast of the Nativity of the Virgin, Damian 
writes: 'Christ gave Himself to death for our sakes; let us too 
mortify in ourselves all the pleasure of earthly desire for love 
of Him. By undergoing death on the gibbet of the Cross He 
prepared a way for us by which we could return to our native 
land, that having been lured away by pleasure, we might return 
embittered by weeping; that we who fell away through our 
delight in unlawful things might rise again in abstaining even 
from lawful things; that we who were cast down because of the 



arrogance of our pride might be raised up by the lowliness of 
a humble life.' 1 Perfectly to imitate Christ, it is necessary to 
share His pain; but life does not provide us with such pains as 
these, and so we must inflict them on ourselves: this is the 
ascetic premiss. 

But we suffer not only in imitation of Christ, the Sinless, but 
also because we deserve to suffer for our sins. To mortify the 
flesh is to make some small satisfaction for the sins of the flesh. 
When Peter Cerebrosus attacked Damian for exhorting the 
faithful to flagellate themselves, Damian replied: C I scourge 
both flesh and spirit because I know that I have offended in both 
flesh and spirit.' 2 He believes that it is not enough to have 
renounced sin; past sins must be atoned for. 

Mortification, then, is firstly a means to contemplation, 
secondly a true imitation of Christ, and thirdly an endeavour 
to make amends for past misdeeds. It consists as much in the 
cultivation of virtue as in the uprooting of vice. The particular 
means which Damian adopted to achieve these ends are most 
clearly seen in the advice which he gave to his own congrega- 
tion of Fonte Avellana and in the rule of life which they 

Physical discipline is for Damian an essential characteristic 
of the religious life; c as it is the duty of priests to offer sacrifice 
and of doctors to preach, so the task of the hermit is to rest in 
fasting and silence.' 3 Fasting is the surest way of controlling 
the wayward passions of the flesh: c The belly must be held in 
restraint lest, when it is filled with excess of food, it should 
infect the other members with vice.' Nevertheless there is need 
for moderation in penitential practices if the monk is to reap 
the full fruits of mortification. Damian stresses the need for 
'modus et discretio', for if too heavy a burden is laid upon the 
weak it will drag them down. So Damian's rules for fasting, 
laid down in his treatise on the institutes of his congregation, 
while they seem to us almost too severe, are not representative 

1 Sermo 45. PX. 144, 299. 

2 Epistolae lib. vi, 27. P.L. 144, 417. 

3 Opusc. 15, 5. P.L. 145, 339. 



of the way of life of the more austere members; they constitute 
a minimum. He lays down these rules clearly and meticulously, 
first defining what he means by a fast. 'We say that those men 
fast who take only bread, water and salt; if anything else is 
added, then it is not a perfect fast.' 

The monks fasted throughout the year as follows: from the 
octave of Easter to Pentecost a strict fast was observed on four 
days of the week; on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays two 
meals were taken. From the octave of Pentecost to the feast 
of St. John the Baptist there were five days of fasting; two 
meals were still eaten on Sunday and Thursday, but on Tues- 
day only one, which was delayed until three o'clock in the 
afternoon. For the period from the feast of St. John to Septem- 
ber 1 3th the rules were the same as for the period from Easter 
to Pentecost. During the great monastic Lent, from September 
to Easter, the monks fasted strictly on five days of the week; 
on Thursdays they took two meals and on Sundays only one. 
The only exceptions to these rules were certain great feasts 
and the three octaves of Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. 
Damian's severity, however, was tempered with sympathy for 
human weakness; when laying down the Lenten regulations he 
adds a rider: 'Saving always this: that merciful indulgence be 
shown to the weaker brethren, as may seem necessary.' 

The diet of the Avellanese hermits was meagre; they took 
no meat, and wine was allowed only for use at the altar, or for 
the sick, or for those who, having newly come from the world, 
found complete abstention too great a burden. For a time, 
indeed, there is evidence that Damian entirely forbade the use 
of wine except for the Holy Sacrifice, but he was obliged to 
restore the privilege, since many of the brethren fell sick, and 
some who wished to enter the congregation were deterred by the 
appalling severity of this ruling. Bread and vegetables formed 
their staple diet; cheese, fish and eggs were permitted, but 
many of the brethren did not take advantage of this. This 
stringent abstinence from more food than was essential for the 
preserving of life and health was not regarded as a withholding 
from what was evil. *By this abstinence we destroy the desires 



of out gullets and extinguish the flames of lust; we do not 
condemn anything which God has made, and God forbid that 
we should.' 1 

Damian regarded fasting as the foundation of physical mor- 
tification. He also attached great importance to other forms of 
self-inflicted corporal penance, and in particular to the use of 
the discipline. Flagellation is the most controversial of ascetic 
practices, and in Damian's own day it met with much opposi- 
tion, both from monks like Peter Cerebrosus and from eminent 
churchmen like Pope Stephen IX, the former abbot of Monte 
Cassino. It is not our task to assess the relative merits of the 
arguments for and against this practice, but to consider 
Damian's justification of it. His case for the defence is presented 
in a short tract addressed to the monks of Monte Cassino, en- 
titled De Laude Flagellorum. Stephen IX had discouraged the 
monks of this house from continuing the practice of public 
flagellation in chapter. Peter attacked the abandonment of the 
custom with all the passion and power at his command: 'Tell 
me, you who in your arrogance mock at Christ's passion, you 
who, in refusing to be stripped and scourged with Him, deride 
His nakedness and all His torments as foolish and vain things 
like the illusions which come to us in sleep, what will you do 
when you see Him who was stripped in public and hung on the 
Cross shining in the glory of His majesty, surrounded by the 
angelic host, with His immeasurable and incomparable splen- 
dour round about Him, more glorious than all things, visible 
or invisible ? What, I say, will you do, when you behold Him 
for whose shame you now have nothing but scorn, seated on 
the fiery throne of the tribunal of Heaven, and judging the 
whole human race in the dreadful judgment of His justice? By 
what rash boldness of presumption do you hope to share in 
His glory, whose shame and injuries you scorned to bear?' 2 
He reminds his readers that the apostles did not scorn to be 
scourged, describing the discipline as apostolica verbera. Since 
to be scourged is to imitate Christ, and since there is now little 

f. 32, pol. P.L. 145, 544. 
2 Opusc. 43, 4- PX. I45 , 682-3. 


likelihood of our receiving such treatment at the hands of 
others, the true follower of Christ must inflict these chastise- 
ments on himself. 

As a result of Damian's preaching, the practice of flagellation 
spread far and wide, as he himself states in the introduction to 
De Laude Flagellorum. Not only monks but the layfolk of town 
and countryside took up the practice. In his own congregation 
flagellation was sometimes carried to lengths that even he 
could not wholeheartedly approve. He tells us of Dominicus 
Loricatus, Prior of Suavicino, who would recite the whole 
Psalter eight times without ceasing, lashing himself throughout. 
By the end of his life his whole body was so disfigured by this 
treatment that he was scarcely recognizable. Such excesses 
could do nothing but harm to the reputation of the congrega- 
tion, and Damian wrote to the hermits of Gamugnium warn- 
ing them against exceeding the limits of good sense: 'You are 
well aware, dearly beloved, that the discipline of flagellation 
which you practise so fervently can be harmful if used without 
discretion, just as it is profitable in moderation. Because of this 
the strength of your weary bodies fails, and sometimes, as some 
believe, worn out by so many blows they fall ill, especially since 
some of you will recite the whole Psalter once or even twice, 
scourging yourselves throughout. And so it happens that some 
brethren who wish to enter the hermitage, hearing such tales, 
are deterred by fear from so doing. Wherefore, showing a 
measure of discretion, we have decreed that no one in the 
hermitage shall be compelled to use the discipline; and if holy 
zeal urges anyone to this, he is permitted to scourge himself for 
the course of forty psalms, and no more, in any one day. By 
doing this we are not depriving you of any good, but pruning 
away what is unnecessary.' 1 

Damian also recommended other practices which were com- 
mon in his own congregation, such as the custom of praying 
with the arms outstretched in the form of a cross, and of mak- 
ing continuous genuflections while reciting the Psalter in 
private; these, however, were not compulsory, being left to the 
1 Epistoke lib. vi, 34. P,L. 144, 433. 



discretion of the individual monk: *We impose no law on the 
brethren in these matters . , . for there are some to whom not 
all are profitable, and so it seems safer and better that they 
should be given freedom of choice/ Here once more are 
revealed the consideration, humanity and moderation of this 
great ascetic; it is an important and neglected facet of his 

These then are the instruments of mortification: fasting, 
flagellation and private penance. Their end is to bring the body 
into subjection and to extinguish unlawful passions. The 
second stage in the ascetic's progress, which consists in soli- 
tude, silence and stability, is directed to a different end: still 
discipline, it is true, but a discipline of the will and of the spirit, 
which will cause virtue to flourish in the soul and enable the 
monk to draw nearer to God. 

Of these, the most important, perhaps, to Damian is solitude. 
The beautiful words of John of Fecamp concerning the solitary 
life would have found an echo in his heart: 'How fair you are, 
O hermitage, and how good, strewn with flowers, filled with 
lilies, rich in the precious stones which are set in the city of the 
Eternal King. You are a place of refreshment for Christ's poor, 
the dwelling-place of the lovers of God, healing shade to those 
who flee from the heat of this world, a place of green pasture, 
where the wild ass who despises cities lies and the deer of the 
mountain-peaks feed. Indeed, my heart loves you and my soul 
greatly desires your beauty.' 1 These words are a clear illustra- 
tion of that passion for the solitary life which filled the minds 
of so many holy men in the eleventh century, and was the 
driving force of the eremitic movement which swept over 
northern Italy. This movement had for its founders St. 
Romuald and St. Nilus of Rossano; in Peter Damian it found 
its champion. 

For Damian stood in something of the same relation to the 
eremitic movement of his day as did St. Bernard to the early 
Cistercians; he gave it prestige and direction; he attracted many 

1 John of Fecamp, Deploratio qufetis et solitudims deretictae. Ed. J. P. Bonnes and 
J. Leclercq, mjean de F&amp. Un maftre de la vie spiritttelk au Xle stick Paris, 1946. 



disciples to its ranks; and his personal holiness drew attention 
to the way of life in which his spirituality was rooted. It is 
because he diverged from the main stream of western spiritu- 
ality, turning away from the Benedictine tradition as it had 
developed, and seeking the sources of his ideal in the desert, 
that he was one of the most important figures in the sphere of 
contemporary monasticism. It has rightly been said that it is 
above all in his quality as a monk, and because of the eremitic 
ideal which he never ceased to proclaim., that he was one of the 
initiators of the Gregorian reform. 1 

Damian argued, with considerable force, that St. Benedict 
himself believed the eremitic life to be the most perfect, and 
had written his rule for cenobites as a sort of training manual 
for beginners. The saint, he maintained, not only did not 
forbid monks to leave their communities for the rigours of 
the desert; he actually urged them to do so. Whether or not 
this is a true interpretation of St. Benedict's thought, it was 
certainly a break with the Benedictine tradition as it had grown 
up in the West throughout the centuries. Damian admitted 
that it might be a good and pleasant thing for brothers to 
dwell together in unity; but it was a higher and holier thing to 
live in solitude, to shun the delights and distractions of life in 
society. The Regula Monachorum he compared to a great house 
which shelters many, young and old, rich and poor, strong and 
weak; but the monk must never forget the existence of a more 
perfect way of life, the higher and broader pastures of Cassian 
and the Desert Fathers. 

His position in this matter is sharply defined in a passage 
from his treatise on the customs of his congregation: 'There 
are many ways which lead to God; there are divers orders in 
the community of the faithful; but of all these no way is so 
straight, so sure, so swift, so free of obstacles as this (i.e. the 
eremitic) for it removes almost all the occasions of sin and 
directs us to an increase of those virtues which please God; so 
that it destroys the power of sinning and imposes by force of 

1 J. Leclercq, *Une lettre inedite de S. Pierre Damien* in StudiA Anselmiana^ 
fasc. 18-19, 1947. 



necessity perseverance in good works.' 1 Uncompromisingly, 
unambiguously he states Ms premiss; the solitary life is most 
perfect, not because it is the hardest but because it is the surest 
way to God. The lax state of many of the monasteries of his 
day can only have confirmed him in his opinions; some were so 
degenerate that he even says that it is better to receive laymen 
straight from the world into the hermitage than to send them 
first to a monastery for a period of training, since those who 
come from monasteries are often more degraded than those 
who come from the world. This was doubtless an extreme 
view, induced by disgust at the debauched living of a few in- 
dividuals; nevertheless, not even the knowledge of the ceno- 
bitic life at its best, as lived at Cluny under the direction of the 
saintly Abbot Hugh, could alter his belief that true perfection 
is the prerogative of the solitary. The monastic life, however 
well lived, is not to be preferred to the eremitic: Tor indeed 
that is good, but this is better. And to descend from what is 
better to what is good is to fall from the heights to the depths, 
to turn one's back on the right path, to sink from spiritual zeal 
into a harmful lukewarmness, and thus to fall, bit by bit, 
from the peaks into the abyss.' 2 

To Damian, the life lived in community is a training-ground; 
here the novice takes his first steps along the road to perfec- 
tion; here he studies the rudiments of the science of contem- 
plation; here he learns to handle the weapons which he will 
later use in single combat with the demons. 'To him who is 
aiming at the heights of perfection the monastery is a stage, 
not a dwelling-place, a hostel and not a home, not the end of 
his striving but a resting-place on the way. . . . Here he submits 
himself for a time to the discipline of regular obedience; his 
life in the monastery is only a preparation for the desert.' 3 This 
is no Basilian concept of the value of the community life as 
such; while the communal life is good, the solitary life is better. 
Not that the hermit disdains the bonds of charity; but for him 

1 Oputff. 15, i. P.L. 145, 537. 

2 Opusc. 14. P.L. 145, 334. 

8 Eptstolae lib. vi, 12. P.L. 144, 393. 



they consist more in prayer for the brethren whom he cannot 
see, in the prayer which unites him to the body of the Church, 
than in the active service of his neighbour or the common life. 

For again and again we return to the well-spring of Damian* s 
teaching: the aim of the religious life is contemplation of the 
Godhead. And since this cannot be achieved without freedom 
from the cares and distractions of the world it is best that the 
would-be contemplative should cut himself off from the society 
of his fellows. Damian is not unaware of the dangers inherent 
in such a way of life; he warns his disciples about the perils 
threatening the unchecked will: 'Above all., he must beware of 
this: that he does not cast off the yoke of obedience under the 
pretence of living the eremitic life; rather he must be the more 
closely bound by the law of obedience since he knows that his 
way of life excels the rule of the cenobites. ... In order that 
our withdrawal and suffering may be fruitful, they must be 
seasoned with the health-giving salt of obedience; whatever 
branches of good work our lives may send forth, obedience 
must always lie at the root/ He exhorts his hermits to fraternal 
charity; they must always welcome their brethren with joy. 
But the incidental stumbling-blocks which the hermit may 
encounter are as nothing to the dangers he leaves behind him 
in the world; and in the hermitage he finds a school of heavenly 
doctrine, a paradise of delight, a garden of all the virtues. 

Here then we have the coping-stone of the structure of 
Damian' s ascetical thought: the eremitic ideal. This was the 
mould in which he cast the common substance of the Christian 
traditions of the West, and from which he produced his dis- 
tinctive contribution to eleventh-century spirituality. He was 
neither the first nor the last to sing the praises of solitude; he 
was not even the originator of the contemporary movement; 
but he was its mouthpiece and its figurehead. 

The solitary life, however, was in itself no guarantee of 
spiritual perfection, and Damian does not fail to stress other 
aspects of spiritual discipline: silence and stability. Silence is 
enjoined, not so much as an act of penance, as because idle 
conversation distracts the soul and prevents it from concen- 



trating upon the things of the spirit. 'We hold our tongues in 
check because if they are undisciplined they empty the soul of 
the strength of heavenly grace, and weaken its healthful 
vigour/ 1 Unnecessary conversation is a prime cause of spiritual 
ruin, for the weaker brethren, under the pretence of a need for 
spiritual advice, will visit one another's cells and soon pass 
from spiritual matters to vain and idle chatter, whence it is but 
a step to worldliness, slander and detraction. A merely physical 
silence is not, however, sufficient; interior tranquillity is neces- 
sary if the ascetic is to attain to the vision of God. This inner 
silence is the fruit of a well-led life; he who pursues the way of 
true mortification, who takes up the cross of Christ, will no 
longer enjoy frivolous gossip; instead, he will rejoice in psalms, 
hymns and spiritual songs, and will seek a hiding-place far 
removed from his fellows; he will shun the cloisters of the 
monastery as he would the public market, and, that he may the 
more easily stand in the presence of his Creator, will avoid all 
human contact, as far as that is possible. The watchword of 
the contemplative is 'Be still, and know that I am God.* 

Stability is as important as silence. Sede in cetta tua\ instability 
is a disease, the morbus vagationis, or inquietude, as he calls it. 
Its unhappy victims lose the fruits both of the active and of 
the contemplative lives; they endeavour to disguise their faults 
under the cloak of obedience, and their wanderings in the 
world make it harder than ever for them to reap the advantages 
of the monastic life. c To the wanderer his cell is a prison; but 
to those who remain there steadfastly it is a sweet resting-place; 
to the monk who perseveres silence brings wakefulness, but 
to him who returns from outside it causes sleepiness; abstinence 
strengthens the body of the man accustomed to fasting, but 
rich food weakens it.' 2 The man who remains perpetually in his 
cell makes of his whole body a tongue to sing the praises of 
stability. Of all ihegyrovagi a wandering hermit is the most dis- 
pleasing to Damian; stability is especially necessary for the 
solitary. He even deplores restless pacing up and down within 

1 Opusc. 15, 5. 

2 Opttsc. 12, 25. P.L. 145, 278. 



the cell, since such a habit is a symptom of inner instability. 
He himself was prevented by the calls made upon him from 
fulfilling his own precepts concerning this important aspect of 
monastic discipline, but one has only to read the moving 
accounts of the joy which filled him when he returned to Fonte 
Avellana after weary journeys on papal business to realize that 
he truly desired that stability which he recommended to others: 
'Just as an invalid who goes into a room full of spices and 
herbs sets aside the weariness of his complaint and begins to 
feel better even before he has taken any medicine, so I, as soon 
as I cross the threshold of my cell, before I have opened a 
single book, feel well and safe, thank God, by the virtue of 
that place, and the wounds of my spirit are healed.' 1 

The third stage in the ascent of the soul towards God is that 
of prayer. For Peter Damian prayer was not only the royal road 
to contemplation; it was the prime duty of every Christian. In 
a short treatise on the canonical hours he remarks: 'Dearly 
beloved, do not regard this labour of Christian service as an 
offering; it is a duty. It is a matter of necessity, not of free 
choice. As you profess yourself a Christian, as you sign your- 
self with the sign of the Cross, as you never let a day go by 
without invoking the Lord's name, so do not presume to omit 
this for any reason whatever.' 2 He stresses the importance of 
both public and private prayer, and agrees with St. Benedict 
that nothing is to be preferred to the Opus Dei. For the 
trumpet-call of the Gospel summons us to continual prayer, 
and while the whole life of a just man is a prayer, those who 
are weak can be sure that they have fulfilled the evangelical 
command if they recite the Divine Office daily. 

Public prayer was an essential element in the life of the 
Avellanese congregation; part of this quasi-eremitic community 
sang the office in choir just as its cenobitic brethren did. 
Damian compares the procession of monks going to the church 
in order to perform the Opus Dei to the army of Christ; c We 
go forth as an army to the battle when we hasten to the church 

1 Epistoke lib. vi, 5. P.L. 144, 379. 
8 Opust. 10, 7. P.L. 145, 229. 



to recite the Psalter or to pray. For there the princes of dark- 
ness wage fierce war against us, trying to distract our wander- 
ing minds from the words we are saying by illusions of the 
imagination. And what a splendid host it is, especially at night, 
when the brethren form their ranks as if aroused by the sound 
of the trumpet, and hastening like an ordered army march 
together to the arena of the divine battle.' 1 

Damian also reminded his brethren of the perennial truth 
that he who prays in solitude does not pray alone; the whole 
Church of Christ prays with and in him. 'The Church of Christ 
is united in all its parts by such a bond of love that her several 
members form a single body, and in each one the whole Church 
is mystically present. ... If, therefore, those who believe in 
Christ are one, then wherever we find a member according to 
outward appearances, there, by the mystery of the sacrament, 
the whole body is present.' 2 

Concerning private prayer as such Damian has little that is 
specific to say. There can, however, be no doubt that he 
attached great importance to its place in the vita contemplative, 
certainly he stressed the importance of purity of heart and 
tears of compunction when praying. A donkey, he says, pro- 
duces only an ugly braying when alive; after it is dead, how- 
ever, parts of its body are used to make instruments which 
produce sweet music; likewise, a man must be dead to sin 
before he can pray well. 

While his teaching on prayer in general is implicit rather than 
explicit, his doctrine concerning tears of compunction has been 
described as richer than that of any western writer who pre- 
cedes him. Tray to God with tears daily' is his counsel to those 
seeking perfection. And he develops this advice: 'The moisture 
of tears cleanses the soul from all stain and makes fertile the 
fields of the heart so that they may bring forth the seeds of 
virtue. . . . The tears which come from God approach the 
judgment seat of the divine mercy with perfect confidence, and 
obtaining at once what they ask, are assured of the certain 

1 Opusc. 13, 17. P.L. 145, 316. 
* Opusc. n, 5-6. P.L. 145, 235-6. 


forgiveness of our sins. Tears are the trustees in the making of 
peace between God and man, and true and wise masters amid 
the doublings of human ignorance. For if we are wondering 
whether or not we are pleasing to God, no better guarantee 
can be given us than that we pray with genuine tears/ 1 He 
praises tears, too, as a means to contemplation: *O tears of 
spiritual joy, better than honey or the honeycomb, and sweeter 
than any nectar! you who renew minds lifted up to God with 
the pleasant sweetness of an inward savour, and water dry and 
wasting hearts at their very core with the stream of heavenly 
grace! For the sweetness and savour of earthly banquets delight 
the palates of those who eat them, yet do not penetrate to their 
inmost parts; but the savour of divine contemplation wholly 
fills us inwardly, and there quickens and sweetens us.' 2 It was 
axiomatic with all the great contemplatives that they that sow 
in tears shall reap in joy; Damian follows the purest tradition. 
Damian* s doctrine of prayer, then, is one with that of Bene- 
dict and Cassian; he regarded it as a chief means to contempla- 
tion. Dom Berliere has admirably summed up the attitude of 
the early western contemplatives to prayer: 'When the ancient 
writers speak of prayer, they are careful to distinguish it from 
meditation which they consider to be the normal preparation 
for prayer; in the same way, they unite it with contemplation, 
which is for them the normal and usual end of prayer/ 3 


In the writings of Peter Damian and in the spirituality which 
they reveal we can trace three sources of influence. The first, 
as we might expect, is that of St. Paul and of the western 
fathers, Augustine, Jerome and Gregory. The second is that of 
the monastic writers, Benedict, Basil and Cassian. The third is 
that of St. Romuald. There may possibly be a fourth: the 
influence of contemporary Byzantine spirituality. There is no 

1 Opusc. 13, 12. P.L. 145, 308. 

2 Ibid., 309. 

8 U. Betltere, UAtefa BtnSMctine> c. 7. 



written evidence to support such a conjecture; nevertheless 
the facts suggest at least a consensus of possibilities. There are 
parallels between the general organization of an Avellanese or 
Camaldolese house, with its monastery and hermitage set side 
by side and mutually dependent, and contemporary Greek 
monachism as described by Nicetas Stethatos in his Life of 
Sjmeon the New Theologian. There is the fact that Damian, who 
made frequent visits to Rome and had close contacts with 
Monte Cassino, cannot have been ignorant of the work of 
Nilus of Rossano. Again, the ties between Italy and Constan- 
tinople, though frequently irritating to both parties, were still 
strong in Damian' s lifetime. 

An early library catalogue of Fonte Avellana gives us some 
idea of the writings of the Fathers and of others which were 
available to Damian. It lists, among others, the following 

1. Gregory the Great: The Moralia, the Commentary on 
E^echiel, the Commentary on the Book of Kings, the Dialogues, the 
Homilies and the Pastoral Care. 

2. St. Augustine: Super Genesim ad litter am, Liber Questionum 
et Locutionum Veteris Testamenti, De Bono Conjugio, the Dialogue 
of the Soul, On Christian Doctrine, On the Trinity, the Confessions, 
On the Psalms, On Faith and Works, the City of God, On the 

Joannine Epistles, The Work of Monks, Against Faustus, Letters, 

3. St. Ambrose: Hexameron, On the Three Patriarchs, Of Faith 
and Grace, On the Epistle to the Romans, On the Epistle to the 
Corinthians, On St. Luke's Gospel, Of the Sacraments, the Beati 
Immaculati, the Letters and De Officiis. 

4. St. Jerome: Letters, On Famous Men, On the Ten Prophets, 
the Lives of the Fathers, De quaestionibus hebraicis, On the Psalms, 
On E^echiel, Treatise on Isaiah, On St. Mark's Gospel. 

5. Origen: On Genesis, On Leviticus, Treatise on the Psalms, 
Commentary on St. Matthew's Gospel. 

Other works included in the catalogue are the Collations of 
Cassian, the Book of Sentences, Burchard's Liber Canonum, 
Hilary on the Psalms, Amalarius's De Officiis, Bede's com- 



mentaty on the canonical epistles, a book containing the rules 
of SS. Augustine, Basil, Jerome and Pachomius, a volume of 
sermons by Gregory Nazianzen, the letters of St. Cyril, 
Smaragdus's Diadema Monachorum, and the Rule of St. Benedict. 
There are also several historical works (Jordanus, Eusebius, 
etc.), copies of the Scriptures, Psalters and other manuscripts. 

It is likely that the Avellanese library contained many of 
these manuscripts when Damian was alive, as he himself tells 
us of the trouble which he went to in order to increase the 
number of books in the scriptorium. Certainly he quotes from 
several of them in his work; for example, from the Moralia, 
Dialogues, Homilies and the Pastoral Care of St. Gregory; from 
the De Trinitate, the City of God, the Commentary on the Psalms, 
the Commentary on St. John's Epistles and the De Opere Mona- 
chorum of St. Augustine; from St. Ambrose's Faith and Grace; 
from the Commentary on the Prophets and the De quaestionibus 
hebraicis of St. Jerome; from the letters of St. Cyril and from 
Paschasius's treatise De Corpore Domini. 

But he also cites texts and authors not included in the cata- 
logue to name but a few, the Contra Crescentius of St. Augus- 
tine, the Adversusjovinianum of Jerome, the Register of Gregory 
the Great, St. Athanasius's Contra Arium, St. Ambrose's De 
Obitu Theodosii, the letters of Leo the Great and the Institutes of 
Justinian. From this we must conclude either that the twelfth- 
century catalogue was incomplete (which is unlikely) or that 
Damian had access to libraries other than his own. We know 
that he was a welcome guest at many of the great monastic 
houses of his day, and especially at Monte Cassino, and we 
know from the Chronicon Cassinense how the scriptorium of that 
monastery throve under the rule of Damian's friend Desiderius. 
It may have been here, for example, that Damian had access to 
the Institutes of Justinian and the Register of Leo the Great, for 
copies of both these works were made at Monte Cassino during 
Desiderius's abbacy. 

It is now possible to consider in closer detail the sources of 
Damian's ascetical theology. Naturally, he quotes extensively 
from the Scriptures in his writings (too extensively, in fact); 

D 49 


and chiefly from the Old Testament, which provided a mine of 
material for the analogy and exposition in which he rejoiced, 
and the Pauline epistles. But these are the common inheritance 
of Christendom, the foundation upon which the whole 
structure of Christian thought is built. Who are the authors 
whose writings and teachings gave to his thought its special 

In endeavouring to answer this question one is hampered by 
the fact that Damian quotes remarkably rarely (or rather., that 
his quotations are often indirect and unacknowledged). He 
cites only occasionally the ipsissima verba of the Fathers. 
Nevertheless, a mere cursory glance through his writings 
throws some light on the problem of his sources. Of the 
identified quotations, the majority come from the writings of 
Augustine, Gregory and Jerome, and the honours are fairly 
equally divided between them. That is what one might expect 
from an eleventh-century author; while it does not altogether 
explain Damian's preoccupation with the solitary life and the 
spirituality of the desert, it is certain that in the western 
Fathers, and particularly in the traditions of St. Augustine and 
St. Gregory, Damian found the root of his ascetical thought. 
His theory of the contemplative life is derived directly from 
these two great men; when Peter Damian speaks of the active 
and contemplative lives under the figures of Martha and Mary, 
or of Leah and Rachel, when he speaks of contemplating the 
Highest Truth, of the soul illumined by the rays of divine 
light, he is expressing ideas and beliefs in which Augustine 
and Gregory would have concurred, in words which would 
not have been out of place on their lips. At heart, Damian is a 

Why, then, did this orthodox and holy man reject the 
orthodox and conventional religious life of his day? The 
answer is twofold. In the first place, many of the monasteries 
of his day were hopelessly lax, even when they were not 
altogether corrupt; they had not yet been cleansed and changed 
by that great tide which swept out from Cluny and transformed 
the Benedictine ideal. In the second place, the new eremitic 



movement which St. Romuald had done so much to propagate 
In North Italy fired his imagination. Yet he was not aware of 
having parted from the mainstream of Benedictine spirituality; 
he believed that he was simply carrying out to the fullest the 
implications of the Regula Monacborum; and St. Benedict is the 
only man to whom he gives the title 'beatus pater noster'. It is 
clear that he considered himself and his hermits as part of the 
great Benedictine family; and indeed his debt to St. Benedict 
is great, and much of the life and organization of his congrega- 
tion adhered closely to the prescriptions of the Rule. 

But in its essence the solitude, the fierce austerity his 
ascetic ideal contained much of the violence and severity which 
had characterized the first beginnings of monasticism in the 
deserts of Egypt and Syria. It is therefore not surprising that 
Damian should have found much in the writings of Jerome 
and Cassian, and in the lives and sayings of the Desert Fathers, 
to attract him. Here was contrast with the degenerate mona- 
chism of his day, as he did not fail to point out. An Antony 
would stand no chance of election as abbot in an eleventh- 
century monastery, he says; virtuous and austere living is no 
longer an acceptable qualification for that office. He beseeches 
his hermits to imitate their holy father Antony in the rigour of 
their fasting, the strictness of their silence, the vileness of their 
clothing. He commends the self-inflicted penances of Macarius. 
Above all, he exhorts them continually to read the pages of 
Cassian, where they will find a worthy rule of life. And in the 
treatise on the perfection of monks he uses St. Benedict's own 
words to encourage them to follow the traditions of the 

'The farmer wiU be disappointed if, before he has laboured 
in the sowing of his seed, he seeks to reap the harvest; for it is 
certain that he who wishes to gather in the grain must first 
root out the bushes and briers. And the voice of God truly 
says to sinful man "Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to 
thee"; this earth, if it is to produce a rich harvest, must first 
endure the hoe and the ploughshare, so that having been cul- 
tivated by many afflictions and by the discipline of perfect 



mortification it may be made beautiful with an abundance of 
all the virtues. . . . Joshua figuratively urged the sons of Joseph 
to this work of husbandry by saying to them, when they were 
complaining of the slenderness of their portion: "If thou be a 
great people, then get thee up to the wood country, and cut 
down for thyself there in the land of the Perizzites and of the 
giants, if Mount Ephraim be too narrow for thee." Now . . . 
he who has decided to be content with the Rule of the blessed 
Benedict alone has confined himself within the narrow territory 
of Mount Ephraim. But listen, and hear how the new Joshua 
urges you to the heights, and commands you to make haste 
towards a wider inheritance: "We have written this rule in 
order that, by observing it, we may show ourselves to have 
some degree of goodness of life, and a beginning of holiness." 
This is Mount Ephraim. But because he considers this portion 
to be a narrow one, he immediately goes beyond it to higher 
and broader things: "But for him who would hasten to the 
perfection of religion there are the teachings of the Holy 
Fathers . . . the Conferences and the Institutes." ?1 

Here then are the two streams which met and mingled in the 
spirit of Peter Damian: the noble and balanced thought of 
Augustine and Gregory, and the voices crying in the wilder- 
ness Cassian, Jerome, Palladius. From the content of the two 
traditions he forged his unique contribution to eleventh- 
century spirituality. And it was an important contribution, both 
in itself and in relation to him. It explains at once his ardent 
support of the cause of the Roman Church and his free criti- 
cism of her rulers; his eminence and his utter lack of ambition 
(one of the most estimable of his many attractive qualities); it 
makes straight the sometimes apparently tortuous ways of his 
thought. Above all, it justifies the tide given to him by the 
Church in the office of his feast: 

O lumen sanctae ecclesiae 
Doctor beate Petre! 

13, 3. P.L. 145, 295. 


The Book of 'The Lord Be With You' 

To the lord Leo, who, for love of divine liberty, has become a 
recluse, from Peter the sinful monk, his servant and son. 

You know well, most dear father, that I do not regard you 
just as a colleague or a friend, but as a father, a teacher, a 
master, a lord, and one who is dearer to me than any other; it is 
to your prayers that I look to gain me a hearing from the merci- 
ful God, and a place in Heaven. What more shall I say? I have 
always held you to be my guardian angel, and the advice which 
you have given me in any doubtful matter which was causing 
me hesitation and difficulty has been accepted as if it had been 
proclaimed by a messenger from Heaven. So, whenever a crisis 
of conscience or thought seizes me, before coming to consult 
you, I beseech the Lord in His mercy to make you the instru- 
ment of His will, that through your lips He may decree the 
course I must take. Now, following my usual custom, I seek to 
learn from you the answer to a question which many inquirers 
have asked of me. 

Many of the brethren, followers of the eremitic life, have 
asked me whether, since they live alone in their cells, it is right 
for them to say Dominus vobiscum,>Jube> domne, benedicere, and the 
like; and whether, despite the fact that they are by themselves, 
they should say the responses, as the custom of the Church 
demands. Some of them argue the matter within themselves in 
this way: 'Are we to ask a blessing of the stones and furnishings 
of our cells, or say to them, "The Lord be with you?" ' Others 
fear that if they depart in any way from the prescribed order of 
the Church they are guilty of sin, in so far as they are diminish- 



ing thek duty of divine service. And when they come to me 
for a solution, my foolish wit is driven to make inquiry. Since, 
then, these difficulties hem me in, I fly to you along the well- 
worn path which leads to the spring, not of Ciceronian elo- 
quence, but of Divine wisdom. 


I spurn Plato, the searcher into the hidden things of nature, 
who set a measure to the movements of the planets, and cal- 
culated the courses of the stars; Pythagoras, who divided the 
round world into its regions with his mathematician's rod, 
means nothing to me; I renounce the much-thumbed books of 
Nichomachus, and Euclid too, round-shouldered from pouring 
over his complex geometrical problems; the rhetoricians with 
their syllogisms and the cavillings of the sophists are useless in 
this matter. Let the gymnasts shiver in their nakedness for love of 
wisdom, and the peripatetics seek truth at the bottom of a well. 

For I seek from you the Highest Truth, not that which lies 
ignobly hidden in a well, but that which rose from the earth, 
and, made manifest to all the world, reigns in eternal majesty in 
Heaven. What are the inventions of crazy poets to me ? What 
do I care for the melodramatic adventures of pompous traged- 
ians ? Let the comedians put an end to the poisoned stream of 
scurrilities flowing from thek noisy lips, and the satirists cease 
to burden their audiences with bitter banquets of insidious 
slander. The Ciceronians shall not sway me with thek smooth 
speech, nor the followers of Demosthenes convince me by 
skilled argument or captious persuasion. Back to your shades, 
you whom worldly wisdom has defiled! Those blinded by the 
sulphurous flames of the teachings of darkness can give me 
nothing. Let the simplicity of Christ instruct me, and the true 
humility of the wise loose me from the chains of doubt. For, as 
St. Paul says: 'When God showed us His wisdom, the world, 
with all its wisdom, could not find its way to God; and now 
God would use a foolish thing, our preaching, to save those 
who will believe in it* 



Away, then, with the letter which kills; let the life-giving 
spirit come to our aid. For the wisdom of the flesh brings 
death, but that of the spirit brings life and peace, since the 
wisdom of the flesh is the enemy of God; it is not subject to 
God's law, nor can it be. And since the wisdom of the flesh is 
unable to bear the yoke of God's law, it cannot look upon it 
either, for its eyes are clouded with the smoke of pride. Loosen 
this knot for me, father, and do not suffer the disciple of 
Christ's lowliness to be deceived by the mouthings of proud 
philosophers. Teach me that of which the unskilled throng of 
dialecticians knows nothing; let wise folly tell me that which 
foolish wisdom cannot understand. 


But perhaps you will ask me first to propound my own 
solution, and give me your judgment afterwards, as do the 
masters in the schools, who first ask their pupils' opinion 
concerning a particular problem in the proposition under dis- 
cussion, so that by drawing them out they may discover their 
abilities. At your command I will tell you what I think of this 
problem, so that by your authority I may be corrected if I am 
mistaken, or have my opinion confirmed if I am right. It is not 
irrelevant to try to point out the origins of these liturgical 
customs before we endeavour, by God's grace, to give an 
answer to these questions of the brethren. The man who is 
to read the gospel is so humble that he does not ask to be 
blessed by the priest but by whomever the priest may appoint, 
saying: Tray, lord, a blessing.' But the priest, to show an 
equal humility, does not delegate the task of blessing to any 
of his ministers; he does not even presume to give the blessing; 
but he asks that God, who is above all things, may bestow a 


The phrase Dominus vobiscum is the priest's greeting to the 



people; he prays that the Lord may be with them, in accord- 
ance with the words spoken by the Prophet: 'I shall dwell 
within them*, and with those spoken by our Saviour to His 
disciples and all the faithful: 'Behold, I am with you/ This 
form of greeting, then, is no mere innovation instituted by 
human authority; it has the sanction of the ancient authority of 
the Scriptures, Anyone who examines the holy writings care- 
fully will find many examples of its use, both in the singular 
and the plural. Did not the angel say to the blessed Mother of 
God: e The Lord is with thee' ? And to Gideon likewise: 'The 
Lord is with thee, thou mightiest of men' ? In the book of 
Ruth, too, we read that Boaz greeted his harvesters with the 
words: 'The Lord be with you.' And in the Book of Chronicles 
we find that the prophet sent by God hailed Asa King of Juda 
and his army as they were returning in triumph from battle 
with these words: 'The Lord be with you, for you were with 
the Lord/ 

When the Church receives the salutary greeting of the priest, 
she greets him in return, and in doing so prays that, as he has 
desired that the Lord may be with them, so He may deign to 
be with him. 'And with thy spirit', she replies, meaning: 'May 
almighty God be with your soul, so that you may worthily 
pray to Him for our salvation/ Notice that she says not 'with 
thee', but 'with thy spirit'; this is to remind us that all things 
concerned with the services of the Church must be performed 
in a spiritual manner. And certainly God must prefer to be 
with a man's spirit, for it is the soul of a reasonable man that 
is made in God's image and likeness; it alone is capable of 
receiving divine grace and illumination. 

And the greeting which the bishop gives his people: 'Peace 
be with you' or 'Peace to you', also has its roots in the authority 
of Holy Writ, and is not just the product of man's mind. For 
we read in the Old Testament that the angel said to Daniel 
'Peace be to you'; and in the New Testament the Lord almost 
always greets His disciples with the words 'Peace to you/ And 
He commended the same form of greeting to His disciples, 
saying: 'Into whatsoever house you shall enter, salute it, saying: 



"Peace to this house." Jl So it is fitting that the rulers of the 
Church, who are the successors of the Apostles, should use 
this form of greeting; for they salute the household of God in 
which it is right that all men should be the sons of peace, so 
that the greeting of peace which rests upon them may be 
advantageous both to the givers of the greeting and to its 


Now it is clear from the premisses which I have stated that 
just as the prophetic writings, the poetry of the psalms and the 
grace of the gospel have been handed down to us by divine 
inspiration, so the phrase c The Lord be with you' comes down 
to us not through any human choosing, but by the authority 
of the Old and New Testaments. We do not take away from or 
add to the authority of the Holy Scriptures because of changing 
circumstances, because the customs of the Church are preserved 
in them; so it is wrong for any reason whatever to utter this 
priestly greeting sometimes and to pass it over in silence at 
others; for it is unlawful to alter the established custom of the 
Church even if not more than one person is present. 


Indeed, the Church of Christ is united in all her parts by 
such a bond of love that her several members form a single 
body and in each one the whole Church is mystically present; 
so that the whole Church universal may rightly be called the 
one bride of Christ, and on the other hand every single soul 
can, because of the mystical effect of the sacrament, be regarded 
as the whole Church. Certainly Isaac with his prophetic nos- 
trils could detect the presence of the whole Church when he 
said concerning one of his sons: 'See, the smeU of my son is as 
the smell of a field/ 2 And that widow who was in debt and who 
at Elisha's command scattered her too small quantity of oil 

1 Matt, x, 12. 2 Gen. xxvii, 27. 



like seed and soon reaped a rich harvest when it overflowed her 
vessels was undoubtedly a symbol of the Church. 

If we look carefully through the fields of the Holy Scrip- 
tures we will find that one man or one woman often represents 
the Church. For though because of the multitude of her 
peoples the Church seems to be of many parts, yet she is never- 
theless one and simple in the mystical unity of one faith and 
one divine baptism. And although the seven women had a 
single husband, 1 a single virgin was said to be espoused to the 
heavenly bridegroom. Of her the apostle says: "I have espoused 
you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin 
to Christ.' 2 

Now it can be clearly deduced from all this, as I said before, 
that since the whole Church is represented in the person of one 
man, and because of this is called a single virgin, holy Church 
is one in all her members, and complete in each of them; her 
many members form a single whole in the unity of faith, and 
her many parts are united in each member by the bond of 
charity and the various gifts of grace, since all of these proceed 
from one source. 


For indeed, although holy Church is divided in the multi- 
plicity of her members, yet she is fused into unity by the fire 
of the Holy Spirit; and so even if she seems, as far as her 
situation in the world is concerned, to be scattered, yet the 
mystery of her inward unity can never be marred in its integ- 
rity. 'The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy 
Ghost which is given unto us.' 3 This Spirit Is indeed without 
doubt both one and manifold; one in the essence of His great- 
ness, and manifold in the diverse gifts of His grace, and He 
gives to holy Church, which He fills, this power: that all her 
parts shall form a single whole, and that each part shall contain 
the whole. This mystery of undivided unity was asked for by 
Truth Himself when He said to His Father concerning His 

1 Isa, iv, i. 2 2 Cor. xi, 2. 3 Rom. v, 5. 



disciples: *I do not pray for these alone, but for them also who 
shall believe in Me through their word; that they may all be 
one; as Thou, Father, art in Me and I in Thee, that they also 
may be one in us: that "the world may believe that Thou hast 
sent Me. And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given 
them; that they may be one, even as we are one.' 1 

If, therefore, those who believe in Christ are one, then 
wherever we find a member according to outward appearances, 
there, by the mystery of the sacrament, the whole body is 
present. And so whatever belongs to the whole applies in some 
measure to the part; so that there is no absurdity in one man 
saying by himself anything which the body of the Church as a 
whole may utter, and in the same way many may fittingly give 
voice to that which is properly said by one person. Hence, 
when we are all assembled together we can rightly say: TBow 
down thine ear O Lord and hear me: for I am poor and needy. 
Preserve my soul, for I am holy.' 2 And when we are by our- 
selves, there is no incongruity in our singing: 'Sing aloud unto 
God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of 
Jacob.' 3 And it is not irrelevant that many of us say together: 
'I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually 
be in my mouth'; 4 or that often when we are alone we sing 
with many tongues: *O magnify the Lord with me, and let us 
exalt his name together' 5 and other things of this kind. For on 
the one hand the solitariness of a single person does no harm 
to the words of many; and on the other the vast number of the 
faithful does not prejudice their unity since by the power of 
the Holy Spirit who is in each of us and fills the whole our 
solitude is manifold and our multiplicity singular. 


But now let those who say 'Are we to ask a blessing of the 
stones and planks of our cells, or ask that the Lord be with 
them?' tell me why, when they are alone in their cells they say: 

1 John xvii, 20-22. 2 Ps. Ixxxvi, 1-2. 8 Ps. Ixxxi, i. 

4 Ps. xxxiv, x. 6 Ibid., 3. 



C O come, let us sing unto the Lord/ 1 pray you tell me, brothers, 
if I may speak with your good leave, whom do you exhort? 
Whom do you summon to the night-office of divine praise 
when you say 'Come let us sing unto the Lord 5 or c Come let 
us adore the Lord King of martyrs' ? These verses are called 
invitatories because by their means the congregation of the 
faithful is summoned to give praise to God. If then there is 
really no one to hear you, whom do you urge to sing to the 
Lord by these words of exhortation ? 

Come, I say, brethren and tell me whether you are not con- 
cerned with the mystery of the unity of the Church but rather 
with the number of those present in the flesh when you say: 
'Arising in the night let us all keep watch' or 'Our limbs being 
rested by sleep, let us arise swiftly/ Why do you not either 
pass over in silence or put into the singular number all those 
hymns and prayers which the holy fathers composed in the 
plural ? 

Since you consider it wrong to ask or to give a blessing 
when there is no one else present, why, when you come to the 
lessons, do you read the homilies of the Fathers and the ser- 
mons of preachers, which by the very nature of the act of 
reading appear to be addressed to the people; so that all your 
words are directed, as it seems, to another person or to an 
audience. To take the very words of these homilies, to whom, 
may I ask, do you say: 'Listen, dearly beloved brethren* and 
so on, when no brethren are present ? If you wish to adapt all 
these things by means of your protesting pen to your soli- 
tary state, you will find that it is impossible; and so you will 
have to leave them out and new ones will have to be composed 
for you. Why, when you come to the prayers, do you say 'Let 
us pray' when there is no one there to pray with you ? If you 
can see no one, whom are you summoning to share in your 
prayer? Why when you have finished reciting the office do 
you follow the custom of saying: 'Let us bless the Lord' when 
there is no one at hand who will bless the Lord with you ? 

Consider carefully, therefore, all these things and those 
others which are too numerous to mention, and be punctilious 



in your observance of the laws of ecclesiastical custom whether 
you are alone or with others. For if the doctors of the Church 
had deemed it necessary, they would have given us one version 
of the offices of the Church for the use of solitaries and another 
for the use of communities; but by being content to compose 
one only, without any variation, they taught us to hold to this 
one order with inviolable respect. For they perceived that 
whatever is reverently offered up in God's service by any 
member of the Church is sustained by the faith and devotion 
of the whole body, since the Spirit of the Church, which gives 
life to the whole body which is preserved by Christ its Head, is 
one. The whole Church is composed of the joining together 
of its different members; but it is certainly a single body, 
established on the firm foundation of a single faith and filled 
with the power of one life-giving Spirit. This is why the 
Apostle says: 'There is one body and one Spirit, even as ye are 
called in one hope of your calling.' 1 And so it is good that 
whatever action in the holy offices is performed by any one 
section of the faithful should be regarded as the common act 
of the whole Church, joined in the unity of faith and the love 
of charity. 


Now this is why, when in offering the Mass we say: *Be 
mindful, O Lord, of Thy servants and handmaids', we add a 
little later Tor whom we offer, or who offer up to Thee, this 
sacrifice of praise'. These words make it quite plain that the 
sacrifice of praise is offered by all the faithful, women as well 
as men, even though it appears to be offered by the priest 
alone; for that which he performs with his hands in offering 
sacrifices to God is rendered pleasing by the earnest piety in 
the souls of the multitude of the faithful. This is made clear by 
another passage: 'We beseech Thee therefore, O Lord, gra- 
ciously to accept this oblation of our service and that of Thy 
whole family/ These words make it even clearer that the sacri- 

1 Epk iv, 4. 


fice which is placed upon the holy altar by the priest is offered 
up by the whole of God's family. This unity of the Church 
was clearly proclaimed by the Apostle when he said: Tor we 
being many are one bread and one body.' 1 For so great is the 
unity of the Church in Christ that throughout the whole world 
there is but one bread which is the Body of Christ and one 
chalice which is the Chalice of His Blood. Just as the divinity 
of the Word of God is one and fills the whole world, so 
although that Body is consecrated in many places and on many 
days, yet there are not many bodies but the one Body of 
Christ. And just as this bread and wine are truly changed into 
the Body of Christ, so all those who worthily partake of it in 
the Church are made into the one Body of Christ, as He Him- 
self bore witness when He said: 'He that eateth My flesh and 
drinketh My blood dwelleth in Me and I in him/ 2 

If, therefore, we are all one body in Christ and we who dwell 
in Him cannot be separated from one another in spirit even 
though we are separated in the flesh, I can see no harm in our 
observing, when we are alone, the common custom of the 
Church, since by the mystery of our undivided unity we are 
never apart from her. When I in my solitude utter the common 
words of the Church I show that I am one with her and that 
by the indwelling of the Spirit I truly dwell in her: and if I am 
truly a member of her it is not unfitting that I fulfil my 
universal duty. 


Moreover the eyes, tongue, feet and hands each have their 
own particular function in the human body; yet the hands do 
not touch, the feet do not walk, the tongue does not speak nor 
the eyes see of themselves and for their own sake; the special 
function of each part of the body can be attributed to the 
whole. And those functions which belong to a particular mem- 
ber by virtue of its nature can be said to be performed by the 
body which is the whole, so that the whole may properly be 
1 1 Cor. x, 17. 2 John vi, 56. 



said to manifest the activity of its parts and the part that of the 
whole. That is why St. Paul's tongue could truthfully say: *I 
suffer trouble in Christ's gospel even unto bonds'/ although 
his tongue was not itself in chains; and he goes on to say: 
The word of God is not bound.' Peter and John ran to 
Christ's sepulchre, although it was only their feet which per- 
formed the act of running; Stephen saw the heavens opened, 
although seeing is the special function of the eyes. Isaac 
touched and felt his son Jacob, yet the power of touching and 
feeling belongs particularly to the hands. And so it is clear 
that any action of an individual member is the work of the 
whole body; and conversely each of the parts participates in 
the action of the body as a whole. 


What cause for astonishment, then, is there in the fact that a 
priest, who is certainly a member of the ecclesiastical body, 
should when he is alone represent the whole Church in giving 
greeting and replying, saying 'The Lord be with you' and 
answering c And with thy spirit'; or that he should afterwards 
both ask and give a blessing ? For by the mystery of her in- 
ward unity the whole Church is spiritually present in the person 
of each human being who has a share in her faith and her 
brotherly love. Truly, the fact of aloneness cannot make the 
unity of faith a solitary thing, nor can the presence of many 
cause it to be divided. What harm does it do for many voices 
to come from one mouth if the faith they express is one? For, 
as I have akeady said, the whole Church forms a single body. 
The Apostle bears witness to this: Tor as the body is one, and 
hath many members, and all the members of that one body, 
being many, are one body; so also is Christ. For by one Spirit 
are we all baptized into one body'; 2 and again: 'Christ's body, 
which is the Church.* 

If, then, the whole Church is the one body of Christ and we 
are members of the Church why should we not, since we are 
1 2 Tim. ii, 9. * i Cor. xtt, 12. 



truly united to her, use when we are alone the words of the 
Church which is our body ? Indeed, if we who are many are 
one in Christ, each of us possesses in Him the whole; and so 
although in our bodily solitude we seem to be far from the 
Church, yet we are most immediately present in her through 
the inviolable mystery of unity. And so it is that that which 
belongs to all belongs to each, and conversely that which is 
particular to some is also common to all in the unity of faith 
and love. So the people have a right to cry: 'Have mercy on 
me, O God, have mercy on me' and 'Make haste, O God, to 
deliver me; make haste to help me, O Lord'; and an individual 
man to say: c God be merciful unto us and bless us.' Our holy 
fathers decided that this fellowship and communion of Christ's 
faithful ought to be a matter so certain that they made it an 
article of the creed of the Catholic faith and commanded us to 
observe it as one of the basic precepts of the Christian religion. 
For as soon as we have said C I believe in the Holy Ghost and 
the holy Catholic Church' we add 'The communion of saints'; 
so that when we give witness to God of our faith we speak 
also of the fellowship of the Church which is one with Him. 
Now the communion of the saints in the unity of faith con- 
sists in this: they believe in one God, are reborn in one bap- 
tism, strengthened by one Holy Spirit, and admitted into the 
same eternal life by the grace of adoption. 

Now just as the Greeks call man a microcosm, that is to say 
a little world, because his body is comprised of the same four 
elements as the universe itself, so each of the faithful is a little 
Church, since without any violation of the mystery of her 
inward unity each man receives all the sacraments of human 
redemption which are divinely given to the whole Church. If 
one man, then, can be said to receive the sacraments which are 
common to the whole Church, why should he be prevented, 
when alone, from uttering the words common to the whole 
Church, for the sacraments are so much more important than 
any words. 



In case there is still some perverter of our arguments who 
says: 'Those things which were instituted for the whole 
assembly of the faithful must under no circumstances be used 
by solitary individuals/ we will now give an example which 
has the authority of the Holy Scriptures themselves, so that he 
may be convinced by reason rather than by words. The book 
of Joshua tells us something which is well known; namely that 
the children of Reuben and Gad, and half the tribe of Manas- 
seh, departing from the children of Israel out of Shiloh so that 
they might enter the country of Gilead, the land of their pos- 
session, built a great altar in the land of Canaan. The people of 
Israel were very angry and took up arms against them, asking 
why they had dared so rashly to build an altar other than the 
altar of the Lord. They answered that they had not done this 
as a transgression, but to secure a witness for the future; lest*, 
they said, c in time to come your children might speak unto our 
children, saying: What have ye to do with the Lord God of 
Israel? For the Lord hath made Jordan a border between us 
and you, ye children of Reuben and children of Gad; ye shall 
have no part in the Lord. So shall your children make our 
children cease from fearing the Lord.* 1 

If there is anyone to whom it is not already clear, let me 
explain briefly why I have brought in this part of the story. 
It is to show that some of the brethren might, in their sim- 
plicity, be disturbed by the thought that they were in some 
way cut off from the body of the faithful if they did not dare, 
in their solitude, to use the common words of the Church in 
their prayers. And so they use these words that they may show 
that they still form part of the ecclesiastical body, and those 
same words bring peace to their unquiet souls by bearing 
witness to the spiritual presence of the faithful. For indeed the 
children of Reuben and of Gad built an altar, not for the 
offering of libations, but as an emblem of their unity with the 
people of Israel; and these others now say, as if they were their 

1 Joshua xxii 


children: "Behold the altar of the Lord, which our fathers 
made, not for burnt-offerings nor for sacrifices; but as a witness 
between us and you.' 1 They did what they did as a witness of 
the fellowship of Israel, and we say what we say as a symbol 
of the true unity of the Church; they lest they be looked down 
upon by their brethren and we lest we be tormented by our 
thoughts. They built the likeness of an earthly altar; we declare 
the truth of spiritual unity; they for a witness to their children, 
and we to maintain the inviolable mystery of our new birth 
and the fellowship of our brethren. 


Some of the things which the Church does seem unnecessary 
as far as human reasoning is concerned; but if we look at the 
mystery of their inward virtue we will see that they are divine. 
Who has not been amazed by the fact that canon law decrees 
that no man who has been married twice may ever be raised 
to the priesthood, and yet allows a priest who has committed 
fornication to be restored to his former office when he has done 
penance? What the Apostle thinks about fornication is per- 
fectly clear: c Neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers 
shall inherit the kingdom of God.' 2 But of those who marry a 
second time he says: e The wife is bound by the law as long as 
her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead she is at liberty 
to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord/ 3 It is per- 
fectly plain from these words that those who marry twice do 
not transgress the law of God; and that fornicators are cut off 
from the kingdom of God because of the excesses of the flesh. 

What is the meaning of this, then ? Why are those who have 
committed no sin deprived of all hope of the priesthood, while 
others whose guilt has cut them off from God's kingdom are 
not, provided they worthily do penance, deprived of the 
assurance of ecclesiastical rank? Unless for this reason: that 
second marriages, although not sinful, affect in some way the 
mystery of the Church. For just as Christ, the high-priest of 
1 Joshua xxii, 28. 2 1 Cor. vi, 9-10. 8 Ibid., vii, 39* 



the good things to come, a true priest according to the order 
of Melchisedech, who on the altar of the Cross offered to God 
the Father the lamb of His own body for the world's salvation, 
is the husband of one bride. Holy Church, who is certainly a 
virgin since she keeps inviolate the unity of faith, so every 
priest is commanded to be the husband of one wife, so that he 
may bear the likeness of the great Bridegroom. 

Thus, as far as those who have married twice are concerned, 
it is not the degree of sin but the nature of the sacrament which 
is important; they are rejected so that the mystical pattern of 
true priesthood may be preserved, not as a punishment for 
their sins. Otherwise the apostle would have numbered among 
the sins that which he permits to be done. And the holy canons 
number those who condemn second marriages among the 
Novatian heretics. We will, if we have not akeady said enough 
to maintain the mystery of ecclesiastical unity, proceed still 


I ask you now in all charity, brethren, whether if two 
brothers are together one of them may rightly say to the other 
'The Lord be with you'. Is he not speaking in the plural to a 
single person, and setting aside literal meaning in observing 
the custom of the Church? For, according to the rules of 
speech, when he is speaking to an individual he should say: 
'with thee', not 'with you'. And if it is wrong for him to 
address one man in the plural, he should always use the singular 
'The Lord be with thee'. No one who has frequented the 
threshold of the Apostles can fail to know how inconsistent 
this is with the law of the Church. For there is no doubt that 
neither the most blessed bishop of the Holy See, when he is 
saying his private Mass with a single server, nor any bishop 
or priest of the Catholic Church uses this form of words in the 

If, then, we can approve the custom of the holy priests; if 
one man has the right to say to another 'The Lord be with 
you' without discord or contravention of the rules of ecclesi- 



astical order, Is there any reason why a single man by himself 
should not use this form of words, since as far as the literal 
meaning of the words goes there is little to choose in incon- 
gruity between saying it to oneself and saying it to one other 
person? Since, then, the authority of ecclesiastical custom is 
such that all the power of polished eloquence yields to it 
humbly; since it is far less concerned with words than with 
meaning, if the rules of grammar may be ignored when there 
are two men present, it follows that one man alone can set 
them aside without blame. Therefore, as the Church's authority 
permits the use of the phrase 'The Lord be with you' when 
only two are present, one man alone has the right to use the 
same phrase without going against her authority. 

The same is true of the response 'And with thy spirit 5 and 
of the asking and giving of a blessing by and to the reader 
when one is alone. It is not the number of persons with which 
we are concerned, but rather the mystical unity of the Church, 
whose unity does not exclude a multiplicity of members and 
whose numerousness does not destroy her unity, since her one 
body includes many members and her many members make up 
a single body; neither is the wholeness of the body destroyed 
by the number of her members. 


It is not surprising that Holy Church is said to be many in 
one and one in many when you remember that the people of 
the earthly Israel, because they were related by birth, main- 
tained among themselves this same pattern of unity. Moses 
sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying: 'Thus saith thy 
brother Israel.' 1 And again, when King Arad the Canaanite 
waged war against Israel and triumphed over them, having 
taken some of them prisoners, Israel vowed a vow to the 
Lord, saying: 'If thou wilt deliver this people into my hands, 
then I will utterly destroy their cities.' 2 We find another clear 
example in the Book of Kings, when the people of Israel said 

1 Num. xx, 14. a Ibid., xxi, z. 



to the people of Judah, on David's return to his kingdom: *I 
have ten parts in the King, and I have also more right in 
David than thee: why then didst thou despise me, that my 
advice should not be first had in bringing back my king ? ?1 

If that people could speak as one person because they all 
sprang from one stock, or rather, because they all worshipped 
one God, and thus show themselves to be one in many, how 
much more may holy Church, since she is made holy and 
governed by the one Spirit of God, filled with the mysteries of 
one faith and baptism, and called by the grace of adoption to 
take possession of one inheritance, have such a fellowship 
within herself that each member may use the words of all and 
all may use the words of each. And so it happens that when 
we are saying the Divine Office we often sing, in honour of a 
single saint, words which we know apply to the whole Church; 
this will be quite clear to you if you read the hymns to the 
Blessed Mother of God and the other saints carefully. 


Indeed the Church of Christ, which is an immovable pillar, 
to whom the keys of the kingdom of heaven were given, is not 
the slave of case and number, but binds under her own laws 
all the modes of speech. She is concerned with souls, not 
words, so she takes little notice of the presence of bodies or 
the moments of time, but considers the devotion and unity of 
souls. c She judgeth all things, yet herself is judged of no man/ 2 
This is why we say, when we are celebrating the holy solemni- 
ties of Easter: *O God, who on this day through Thine only- 
begotten Son hast overcome death and opened unto us the 
gate of everlasting life', when we all know very well that that 
Pasch of the Jews, during which the Lord suffered and rose 
again, is past, and that the light of Paschal rejoicing shines 
upon us on the nearest Sunday. In the same way we say on the 
feast of the Ascension and at Whitsun 'today', since the time 
of their occurrence is determined according to the Easter 
1 2 Sam. six, 43. * i Cor. H, 15. 


reckoning. And we celebrate the beheading of John the Bap- 
tist in the month of August, although it is almost certain that 
he was slain by Herod about the time of the Lord's Passion. 

The same is true of the feast of St. James, and that of 
St. Peter-in-Chains. We read in the Acts of the Apostles: 
'Herod, after he had killed James the brother of John with the 
swotd, because he saw that it pleased the Jews proceeded to 
take Peter also.' 1 It goes on: 'Then were the days of the un- 
leavened bread' and adds soon afterwards 'And when he had 
apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to 
four quaternions of soldiers to keep him, intending after Easter 
to bring him forth to the people'. It is clear from this that the 
actual events took place at one time of year and the festivals 
which celebrate them are instituted at quite another. For these 
feasts, as you know, are celebrated at the end of July, and 
however you search through the Old Testament you will not 
find that the Jews celebrated either their Pasch or the days of 
unleavened bread at that time. But since these feasts could not 
be celebrated properly during the Easter solemnities, the 
Church appointed another time for their observance. 

I have given this short account of certain great feast-days 
so that you may clearly understand that Holy Church is not 
bound by the laws of time; rather, she governs the changes of 
time according to her pleasure. Nor does she serve the ele- 
ments; it is they who are subject to and obey her. This is why 
the teacher of the Gentiles says: C A11 things are yours, whether 
Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or 
things present or things to come; all are yours; and ye are 
Christ's, and Christ is God's.' 2 And in order to show how 
Holy Church excels in the greatness of her authority he says 
again to these same Corinthians: T>o ye not know that the 
saints shall judge the world ? and if the world shall be judged 
by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters ? Know 
ye not that we shall judge angels ? how much more things that 
pertain to this life.' 3 

1 Acts xil, 2. 2 1 Cor. iii, 22. 8 i Cor. vi, 2-3. 




But, to return to the matter in hand, is it surprising that holy 
Church, to whom God has committed such power, should so 
change the words which serve her according to her wishes 
that individual men may utter the words of many, and the 
many those of individuals? Is there any reason why those 
words which are specially suited to some men should not be 
said by others ? We know that when children are baptized, the 
priest says: 'What dost thou ask?' And not the child itself, but 
another, answers on its behalf: 'Faith/ etc. That which is the 
child's own reply is said by another. If one person may utter 
the words of another even in this holy sacrament of our 
regeneration, which is the source of all human salvation, why 
should not one man make answer for another when it is a 
question of an ecclesiastical greeting or the asking of a bless- 
ing ? It is no innovation of modern foolhardiness to claim that 
one man may make the responses on behalf of another in the 
Church; it has the sanction of apostolic authority; for St. Paul 
said to the Corinthians: 'Otherwise, when thou shalt bless 
with the spirit, who shall occupy the place of the unlearned ?'* 

It comes to this, that if any man is afraid to say: c The Lord 
be with you' because he is alone, or even to reply 'And with 
thy spirit', then he must fear to say 'Let us pray'. He must say 
'Let me pray' lest he should seem to summon to prayer those 
who are not there. He who thinks it sacrilege to ask a blessing 
when there is no one by, or to give one, must be careful not to 
say, after the reading: 'Do thou, O Lord, have mercy on us'; 
he must say: 'Have mercy on me.' If this seems ridiculous and 
stupid to him, then let him not be ashamed to utter the words 
of the Church when he is alone, since he knows that in mind 
and spirit he is never separated from her. Let him not declare 
by his words that he is separated from that body whose mem- 
ber he particularly professes to be; but, because the Church of 
Christ is truly one, let him fulfil the duty of his universality 
bravely; he must strive to maintain the power of the mystical 
1 i Cor. xiv, 1 6. 



body, rather than to concern himself with the suitability of 
what he is saying. 


Now as I have said before, there is much in the customs of 
the Church which seems on the surface to be worthless and 
trivial; but when we look at it more carefully we find that it is 
sustained by the weight of great worth. To take but a few 
examples: who, to look at the vestments of a priest, would 
think there was anything in them worthy of admiration, unless 
he realized what they symbolized? But if he sees them by the 
light of spiritual understanding, he knows why clerics' sandals 
have complete soles but only partial uppers. He reflects care- 
fully upon the reason why the alb reaches to the heels and the 
amice is always made of Hnen; he ponders the meaning of the 
girdle and the stole; in the same way he wonders why the 
dalmatic is divided into four like a cross; why the chasuble is 
put on over all the other vestments and why the maniple is 
worn on the left arm; he will understand when the rheum has 
been removed from the eyes and nostrils of the spirit, not the 

He will realize that there is a reason why the deacon, when 
he is not wearing a dalmatic, should wear a chasuble when he 
reads; and why the said dalmatic has a fringe on the left side. 
Nor does he foolishly make light of the custom that pontiffs 
wear a pallium over their vestments, just as a plate of gold was 
placed upon the forehead of the high-priest of old, for his 
honour and glory; on this plate the name of the Lord was 
engraved in a tetragram which meant 'Holiness to the Lord'; 
there were few letters, but they contained in themselves the 
power of a mighty understanding. But why do we go on 
indefinitely? Whatever is done in God's service, whether under 
the old dispensation or the new, is done by symbolic figures 
and allegories. The building of the tabernacle, the number of 
the Levites, the ceremonies of the priests, and indeed the rites 
of holy Church today demand that we should seek in them the 


virtue of their spiritual meaning. And so we may say that there 
is a mystery hidden in the ministry since the hidden mystery of 
allegoric meaning is explained by the outward forms of 


Let us unfold here briefly the matter which we took in hand 
so that it may be made more clear and plain, leaving out those 
things which have been conveniently set forth elsewhere by 
learned commentators. Now the vice of arrogance is not un- 
known to some readers, especially to those who possess grace 
of speech; when their unbridled tongues run through the open 
fields of the Scriptures the spirit of pride invades their hearts, 
which love to be in favour with the multitude. While they 
guide others along the right road they themselves hasten down 
the by-ways of confusion and error. That is why it is cus- 
tomary to say to refectory readers: 'May the Lord remove 
from thee the spirit of pride/ And the reader asks a blessing 
with such submissiveness that it is not the priest but someone 
whom he appoints who blesses the man who is about to read; 
this is done so that at the very beginning of the reading 
humility may be brought in to counteract any feeling of pride 
which might arise. 

The reason why the priest utters a greeting in church is this: 
that he may show that he is at peace with the whole assembly 
of the faithful. Our Lord commanded this in the Gospel, when 
he said: 'When ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought 
against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may for- 
give you your trespasses'; 1 and again: c lf thou bring thy gift to 
the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought 
against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar and go thy 
way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer 
thy gift/ 2 And so the priest before he offers sacrifice and 
prayers to God shows by this mutual greeting that he is bound 
to die faithful by the bond of brotherly love; he does this so 
that he may make this commandment of the Lord clear by his 
1 Mark xi, 25. a Matt, v, 23-24. 



outward actions, as well as keeping it in his heart. Because of 
this., he sees as present with the eyes of the spirit all those for 
whom he prays, whether or not they are actually there in the 
flesh; he knows that all who are praying with him are present 
in spiritual communion. And so the eye of faith directs the 
words of his greeting and he realizes the spiritual presence of 
those whom he knows to be near at hand. Therefore let no 
brother who lives alone in a cell be afraid to utter the words 
which are common to the whole Church; for although he is 
separated in space from the congregation of the faithful yet he 
is bound together with them all by love in the unity of faith; 
although they are absent in the flesh, they are near at hand in 
the mystical unity of the Church. 


But now I would like to say a little about the merits of the 
solitary life and to give you some idea of what I feel about the 
heights of that life by my praises rather than by my arguments. 
The solitary life is indeed a school of heavenly learning, a 
training in divine arts. There all that we learn is God; He is 
the way by which we proceed and through which we come 
to a knowledge of the highest truth. The hermitage is a para- 
dise of delight where the fragrant scents of the virtues are 
breathed forth like sweet sap or glowing spice-flowers. There 
the roses of charity blaze in crimson flame and the lilies of 
purity shine in snowy beauty, and with them the humble 
violets whom no winds assault because they are content with 
lowly places; there the myrrh of perfect penance perfumes the 
air and the incense of constant prayer rises unceasingly. 

But why should I call to mind these in particular ? For the 
lovely buds of all the holy virtues glow there many-coloured 
and graces flourish in an undying greenness beyond the power 
of words to describe. O hermitage! delight of holy souls, un- 
failing in your inner sweetness. You are like the Chaldean 
furnace in which holy young men check the raging fire by the 
power of their prayers and put out the thronging, crackling 



flames by the ardour of their faith; where their bonds are burnt 
and yet their limbs do not feel the fire; for they are loosed from 
their sins and their souls are stirred up to sing hymns in God's 
praise, saying: 'Thou hast loosed, O Lord, my bonds; I will 
offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving/ 1 You are the kiln in 
which the vessels of the Eternal King are shaped; where they 
are beaten to an everlasting brightness by the hammer of 
penance and polished with the file of wholesome chastisement; 
where the rust of the worn-out soul is destroyed and the rough 
dross of sin is cast aside. 'The furnace proves the potter's 
vessel; and trial and tribulation prove righteous men.' 2 

O warehouse of heavenly merchants, in which are found the 
best of those wares for whom the land of the living is prepared! 
Happy market-place, where earthly goods are exchanged for 
those of heaven, and things eternal substituted for those which 
pass away! Blessed market, where life everlasting is set out for 
sale and may be bought by any man, however little he possesses; 
where a little bodily suffering can purchase the company of 
heaven and a few sparse tears procure everlasting gladness; 
where we cast aside worldly possessions and enter into the 
patrimony of our eternal inheritance! You, O solitary cell, are 
the wonderful workshop of spiritual labour, in which the 
human soul restores to itself the likeness of its Creator and 
returns to its pristine purity, where the blunted senses regain 
their keenness and subtlety, and tainted natures are renewed in 
sincerity by unleavened bread. The gifts you bestow are these: 
that while the countenance seems pale with fasting the soul is 
nourished with the fatness of God's grace; that he who was 
once so wrapped in darkness that he did not know himself can 
with a pure heart behold God. You lead man back to his 
beginnings and recall him from banishment to the heights of 
his ancient dignity. You make it possible for man to see, from 
the citadel of his mind, all earthly things flowing away beneath 
him and himself passing away in the stream of perishable 
things. You, O hermitage, are the tent of the holy army, the 
battlefield of the victorious host, God's fortress, c the tower of 
1 Ps. cxvi, 16-17. a Ecclus. xxvii, 6. 



David builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand 
bucklers, all shields of mighty men/ 1 You are the battlefield of 
God, the arena of spiritual strife, the angels' amphitheatre, the 
wrestling-school of strong combatants, where the spirit 
struggles with the flesh and the strong is not overthrown by 
the weak. You are a rampart to those hastening to the fight, a 
bulwark for the strong, a protection for those fighters who 
never yield. Let the barbarian host which surrounds you rage; 
let them bring up their mantlets, hurl their fiery weapons and 
increase the number of brandished swords; those who dwell 
within your walls, armed with the breastplate of faith, rejoice 
in the invincible protection of their leader and are triumphant 
in the certainty that their enemies will be overthrown. It was 
said to them: *The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold 
your peace 7 ; 2 and to each singly: Tear not; for they that be 
with us are more than they that be with them.' 3 You, O solitary 
life, are the death of vice and the life and kindler of virtue. The 
law exalts you; the prophets admire you; all men who have 
reached the heights of perfection have recognized your worth. 
It is to you that Moses owes his receiving of the Decalogue, 
because of you that Elijah saw the Lord's passing, 4 through 
you that Elisha was clothed in a double portion of his master's 

What more shall I say? The Redeemer of the world, at the 
very beginning of the work of redemption, made His herald a 
dweller in the desert, so that in the dawn of the new world the 
morning star of truth might rise from you, after whom was to 
come the full sun who was to bring light to the world's dark- 
ness by the glory of His splendour. You are Jacob's ladder, 
conveying men to heaven, and bringing angels to our aid. You 
are the golden highway leading men back to their native land, 
the racecourse which carries those who have run well onward 
to receive their crown. O eremitic life, you are the soul's bath, 
the death of evildoing, the cleanser of filth; you make clean 
the hidden places of the soul, wash away the foulness of sin 

1 Song of Sol. iv, 4. 2 Exod. xiv, 14. 

8 2 Kings vi, 16. 4 i Kings xix. 



and make souls shine with angelic purity. The hermit's cell is 
the meeting-place of God and man, a cross-roads for those 
who dwell in the flesh and heavenly things. For there the 
citizens of heaven hold intercourse with men, not in the lan- 
guage of the flesh, but by being made manifest, without any 
clamour of tongues, to the rich and secret places of the soul. 
The cell knows those hidden counsels which God gives to 
men. How fair a thing it is to see a brother in his cell pass all 
the night in singing psalms, keeping watch, as it were, over 
God's fortress; as he watches the stars move through their 
heavenly courses the psalms proceed in order from his lips. 
And as the earlier and later stars come to light alternating in 
their courses, so the psalms which proceed from his lips as 
from a day-spring come to an end as if keeping pace with the 
movement of the stars. He is carrying out the duty of his call- 
ing, and they are performing the task appointed to them; he in 
his chanting is reaching out inwardly towards the unapproach- 
able light while they, one after the other, refresh his bodily 
eyes with visible light. And although each hastens towards his 
end by a different path, yet the heavenly bodies are in harmony 
with God's servant in their mutual obedience. 

The hermit's cell sees when a heart is burning with the fire 
of divine love, and knows whether a man seeks the face of 
God with the constancy of perfect devotion. It knows when 
his soul is sprinkled with the dew of heavenly grace and when 
remorse waters it with flowing streams of tears; even if tears 
do not spring from the eyes of the flesh, yet the sorrowing 
heart is not far from floods of tears, for that which cannot be 
plucked from the branch of outward observation is neverthe- 
less always preserved at the root of the moist and verdant 
heart. If the soul cannot be always weeping, it is enough that 
it should be sorrowful. The cell is a prison-house where 
precious stones are polished so that they may be used after- 
wards to adorn the temple without any wound of hammering. 

You, O hermitage, are like the Lord's sepulchre; you 
receive those whom sin has slain and bring them again to life 
in God by the breath of the Holy Spirit. You are a sepulchre 



from the confusion and trouble of this life, but you open the 
way to the life of heaven. Those who escape from the ship- 
wreck of this stormy world find in you a haven of peace; those 
who were wounded in battle and flee from the enemy's hands 
see in you the dwelling-place of a skilful doctor. For as soon 
as they retire with a perfect heart into the shadow of your peak 
the bruises of their hurt souls and the wounds of their inner 
man are healed. It was of you that Jeremiah said: 'It is good 
that a man should quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. 
It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. He 
sitteth alone and keepeth silence because he hath borne it upon 
him. 31 He who dwells within you is lifted up above himself, 
for the soul which hungers for God raises itself above the 
sights of earth and stands upon the citadel of divine contem- 
plation; it holds itself apart from the world's doings and soars 
on high on the wings of heavenly longing; when he is con- 
cerned with beholding Him who is above all things, man 
transcends himself as well as the rest of the lowliness of the 
valley of this world. The hermitage is indeed a spiritual 
dwelling-place, which makes proud men humble, gluttons 
sober, cruel men kind, wrathful men meek and those who hate 
burn with brotherly love. It bridles idle tongues and girds 
lustful loins with the girdle of shining chastity. You, O her- 
mitage, cause light-minded men to be serious and jesters to 
cease uttering scurrilities; you make prattlers constrain them- 
selves under the discipline of silence. You are the nurse of 
fastings and vigils, the guardian of patience, the teacher of 
purest simplicity; to you deceit and guile are unknown. You 
hold the wanderer in the chains of Christ, and make men of 
undisciplined behaviour repress their evildoing. You know how 
to bring men to the peak of perfection and raise them to the 
height of perfect holiness. You make them smooth and pol- 
ished, marred by no roughness; you make of them squared 
stones, fit for building the walls of the heavenly Jerusalem; 
they will not be shifted by the inconstancy of their behaviour 
but will remain immovable in their serious following of holy 

1 Lam. iii, 26-8. 



religion. You make them strangers to themselves; you make 
the vessels of vice blossom with virtue. You are black but 
comely, like the tents of Kedar or the curtains of Solomon. 
You are the bath in which the shorn sheep are washed. You 
are like the fishpools of Heshbon. Your eyes are as the eyes of 
doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk and fitly set. 
Indeed you are the mirror of souls where the human soul can 
behold itself clearly, supplying what is lacking, removing what 
is unnecessary, straightening what is crooked and rebuilding 
what is misshapen. You are the bridal couch on which a dowry 
is paid to the Holy Spirit and the happy soul is united to its 
heavenly spouse. Righteous men love you, and those who flee 
from you, deprived of the light of truth, do not know where 
to set their feet. 'If I do not remember thee let my tongue 
cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I prefer not thee above my 
chief joy.' 1 Let us sing of you with cheerful voice in the words 
of David: c This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell, for I have 
desired it. How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for 
delights.' 2 The beauty which adorned Rachel's countenance 
and that better part which Mary chose, which shall never be 
taken away from her, are both symbols of you. You are a 
garden of spices, the fountain of gardens, a pomegranate. 
Although your bark seems bitter to those who know you not, 
how lovely is that which is hidden within, how sweet is your 
marrow! Hermitage, you are an escape from the persecuting 
world, rest for the labourer, comforter of the sorrowful, a cool 
refuge from the world's heat, the rejector of sin and the free- 
dom of souls. David sought you when he was suffering from 
the world's evils and endured the weariness of a dark and tor- 
mented heart: *Lo, then would I wander far off and remain in 
the wilderness,' 3 

What shall I say of the others ? The very Redeemer of man- 
kind deigned to visit you and sanctify you by His presence at 
the beginning of His work. For after He had been washed in 
the water of baptism, as the Gospel tells us, immediately the 
Spirit drove Him into the wilderness: 'And he was there in the 
1 Ps. cxxxvii, 6. 2 Ps. cxxxii, 14. 3 Ps. Iv, 7. 



wilderness forty days and forty nights, tempted of Satan; and 
was with the wild beasts/ 1 Let the world recognize that it is in 
your debt, since it was from you that God came to embark 
upon his work of preaching and miracles. How terrible you 
are, O hermitage, to the evil spirits; there the monks' cells are 
raised like rows of tents in a camp, like the towers of Sion and 
the ramparts of Jerusalem against the Assyrians and against 
Damascus, for in these cells divers tasks are carried out in a 
common spirit; some sing psalms, others pray, some write and 
others toil at various manual labours. Are not those divine 
words: 'How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy taber- 
nacles, O Israel! As valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by 
the river's side, as the trees of aloes which the Lord hath 
planted, and as cedar trees beside the waters' 2 applicable to 
you? What more shall I say of you, O solitary life, blessed life, 
pleasure-garden of souls, holy life, angelic life, hall of heavenly 
jewels, court of the senators of heaven ? Your fragrance excels 
the fragrance of all spices, your taste is sweeter to the tongue 
of the enlightened heart than the dripping honeycomb or any 
honey. Whatever is said of you cannot do justice to your worth 
and merit, for the fleshly tongue cannot express what the 
spirit knows of you; no bodily organ of speech has ever 
revealed the sweetness of your inward savour at the heart's 
core. Those who know you love you; those who have rested 
in the delight of your loving embrace know the merits of your 

As for those who do not know these things, they can never 
know you. I know that I am unworthy to praise you; but I 
also most certainly know this, O blessed life, and have no 
hesitation in saying it: any man who strives to remain constant 
in the desire for your love dwells in you, and God dwells in 
him. Satan and his wiles are subject to him, and the devil 
groans to see him approaching that place from which he him- 
self was banished. And having won a victory over the demons 
such a man is made the companion of the angels; an exile from 
the world, he is the heir of paradise; denying himself, he be- 

1 Mark i, 13. a Num. xxiv, 5-6. 



comes Christ's follower. And he who follows In His footsteps 
now will certainly, when he comes to the end of his journey, 
be raised to the glory of His fellowship. I say with all confi- 
dence that he who remains in the solitary life to the end of his 
days for the love of God will, when he quits this mortal 
dwelling, come to that glorious building, the house not made 
with hands, his eternal home in heaven. 


See, beloved father, I have given you a problem to solve, 
impelled thereto by the inquiries of the brethren; and have not 
hesitated in the meanwhile to say what I myself thought. I did 
not do this, however, that I might usurp the authority of a 
teacher and venture to instruct others, but rather that I might 
make clear to you what I myself think in my inexperience. 
Thus, whatever is to be found in the foregoing arguments is 
simply set out for your inspection; it is not a categorical asser- 
tion or a definitive statement but a disquisition supported by 
reasons. Therefore, dearly beloved, I beg you to look carefully 
at all that I have written; if my assumptions are false, obliterate 
them with a sharp knife, but if, as a result of your teaching, 
they are consonant with sound doctrine, then strengthen them 
with the force of your own authority. I could have said what 
I had to say more briefly, but I must confess that it gave me 
pleasure to prolong my speaking to your sweet self while I had 
the opportunity. We are happy to spend a long time in pound- 
ing spices, especially when he in whose service they are to be 
used has himself so sweet a fragrance. 

May almighty God command His servant Leo by secret 
inspiration to shed three tears or utter three sighs each day for 
me who am so wretched. 


On the Perfection of Monks 

Peter the sinful monk sends to the venerable Lord Abbot O. 
. . . and to his holy community the duty of devoted service. 

Even if a poor debtor cannot pay all that he owes, it is con- 
sidered that he has fulfilled his obligation if he offers that little 
amount which he possesses. Often, indeed, a poor peasant who 
has borrowed money at interest is absolved from the obliga- 
tions of his note of hand simply by bringing a gift of herbs to 
his creditor. And so I, who owe so much to your kindness, 
send this poor screed; poor, let me say, because of my clumsi- 
ness, not of its own nature, for its subject is the will of God, 
and it sets forth faithfully matters old and new. 


You are well aware, my brothers (I say it with tears), into 
what lack of zeal our holy order has fallen, and does not cease 
to fall more deeply every day; so that now, having carelessly 
forgotten almost all its precepts, we seem to be content to 
wear merely the outward habit of our calling. Under the cloak 
of religion we live worldly lives, and outrage the spirit of dis- 
cipline when we abandon ourselves to the flowing stream of 
pleasures, disgracing the title of our nobility, and vainly bear- 
ing the name of monks. We are like bastard sons, who delight 
in being called by their father's name, but whose dishonour- 
able origin bars them by law from inheritance. Ishmael and the 
sons of Cethura were all equally said to be the sons of Abraham. 
But when the laws of succession came into effect, the inheri- 



tance in all Its entirety was bequeathed to Isaac, the lawful son: 
the sons of the concubines received only gifts; for Solomon 
says that bastard slips shall not send forth deep roots. 1 I beg 
you not to take my words as an insult to yourselves. For you 
know that it is best to lay the kindling at that point where some 
spark of fire seems to remain; who is so foolish as to blow 
upon ashes from which all heat has completely departed? Un- 
less, through Christ's grace, I hoped for better things from 
you, I should regard it as a waste of time to forsake my other 
tasks and pursue you with hortatory letters. 

Therefore, beloved, gather your forces, with Christ's aid, 
and do not bear the yoke of His service to whose banner you 
are pledged idly or weakly, but rather zealously and manfully; 
so that the foundation of your way of life, which stands at 
present in the middle way, may not through your carelessness 
return to nothing (which God forbid), but may, through the 
perseverance of your abiding fervour, reach the peak of per- 
fection. Remember what was said to the angel of the Church 
of Sardis: 'Be watchful, and strengthen the things which 
remain, that are ready to die; for I have not found thy works 
perfect before God.' 2 Since he did not find his works perfect 
before God, he declared that even those things which had been 
well done were at the point of death. If, therefore, that which 
is dead in us be not fanned into life, what remains alive in us 
will soon be extinguished. It is certain that he who does not 
bring his labours to completion loses the benefit of the work 
he has done. Of what use is it that a body begins to be formed 
in the mother's womb, if it does not reach the fullness of 
natural growth? You know well of what child it was said: *A 
woman, when she is in travail, hath sorrow, because her hour 
is come; but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remem- 
bereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into 
the world.' 3 


God, who weighs the deeds of every person and office, of 
1 Wisd. of Sol. iv, 3. 2 Rev. iii, 2. 8 John xvi, 21. 



every state and rank most meticulously and carefully In the 
balance, and has different scales for each order, does not look 
with favour upon an abortive work. Did not he who wrote 
upon the wall with his finger: 'Thy kingdom is weighed in the 
balance, and thou art found wanting', 1 have a balance fit for 
weighing the works of a king, and place his deeds therein ? 
And immediately after he added: 'Thy kingdom is divided, and 
given to the Medes and Persians/ 

If, then, almighty God took from this man both his king- 
dom and his life, for no other crime than this, that there was 
not found in him that fullness of good works which becomes 
a king, what is to be thought of us, who in our monastic pro- 
fession vowed that we would scale the heights of perfection, 
and yet lie inert in the valley of our shortcomings in a torpor of 
sloth ? Why does a man strive with all his might to complete 
what he has begun? Only so that he may not lose all that his 
previous labour has won for him. Of what use is it, may I ask, 
for a man to set out on any road, if he does not reach his 
destination ? In the same way, if a man has incurred the enmity 
of a king, and can only be re-established in his favour if he 
presents him with a hundred pounds of silver, and knows too 
that if he pays his debt to the king he will receive not only 
favour, but the distinction and insignia of some great office, 
would he not be foolish to allow ninety-nine pounds which 
he has akeady paid into the public treasury to slip through his 
fingers because he did not pay the remaining pound which was 
necessary to make up the amount? Is it not better for him to 
pay the little which was lacking in full, and to receive royal 
favour and great office, than to lose what he has given, and, 
which is more terrible, still to be subject to the king's wrath ? 

I make so bold as to say, brethren, that we have given 
ninety pounds of silver to Christ our king, for whose sake we 
have abandoned our possessions and spurned marriage; for 
whom we avoid the eating of meat, hold ourselves apart from 
the pomp and glory of the world, and exchange the splendour 
of worldly dress for our humble garb. These, I confess, are 

1 Dan. v, 27. 

8 4 


great and difficult things, and will be more greatly rewarded 
with divine gifts; but something is still needed before we can 
complete the payment of our debt and deserve admittance to 
the treasure-house of the eternal King. You ask what this is: 
the answer presents itself to me at once: obedience, love, joy, 
peace, patience and the other virtues enumerated by the 
teacher of the Gentiles. 1 But I wish to put it more succinctly, 
so that it may the more easily, and therefore the more firmly, 
stay in your minds. It is nothing other than this: a fervent love 
of God and mortification of yourself. For if those apostolic 
words which say: 'Always bearing about in our bodies the 
dying of the Lord Jesus' were alive in us, all our delight would 
necessarily be in God, since fleshly love would have nowhere 
to spread within us; our leaping fire would burn there with 
him, since it would find no room within ourselves. The truly 
wise man, he who is intent on the guarding of his salvation, 
watches over the curbing of his vices with such anxious care 
that he binds with the girdle of perfect mortification his loins 
and his reins, his belly and his flanks. He achieves this when 
the greedy gullet is kept in check; when the wanton tongue is 
compelled to be silent; when the ears are shut to scandal- 
mongering; when the eyes are forbidden to look upon un- 
lawful things; when the hand is bound, for fear it should strike 
cruelly, and the foot, lest it should wander idly; when the 
heart is withstood, for fear it should envy the prosperity and 
happiness of another, or desire or covet that which is not its 
own, lest it should be cut off from brotherly love by anger, or 
raise itself above others in its pride, or succumb to the delights 
of enticing pleasure; lest it should be too much weighed down 
by grief, or lay itself open to the seductions of joy. Since, then, 
the human mind cannot be utterly empty, but must always be 
concerned with love of something, it must be completely sur- 
rounded with this wall of virtue; that which is not permitted 
to expand in its own surroundings must necessarily be carried 
above itself. 

1 Gal. v, 22-23. 



Thus, when our mind begins to rest in its Creator and to 
taste those delights of inner sweetness, it soon rejects anything 
which it considers to be opposed to the law of God, and abhors 
whatever is not in harmony with the rules of eternal justice. 
And from this true mortification springs; this is how it happens 
that a man, bearing his Redeemer's cross, seems dead to the 
world. From now on, he takes no pleasure in frivolous gossip, 
nor does he waste time in idle conversation; he occupies him- 
self with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs; he desires solitude 
and seeks a quiet place; the workshops where the brethren 
speak together and the cloisters of the monastery are to him 
like the public market-place; he searches for and takes pleasure 
in remote and lonely places; as far as he can, he avoids all 
human contact, so that he may the more easily stand in the 
presence of his Creator. 

When this man has destroyed the citadels of the enemy; 
when he has trodden on the necks of the kings hiding in the 
cave and brought them to utter ruin; when he has overthrown 
the kingdoms of the sea and the plains and the mountains, 
what is left for him, except to possess the promised land in 
peace and security with the triumphant Joshua? What is the 
use of having left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea dryshod, if 
we are confined in the desert for forty years, and can neither 
return to the fleshpots nor enter by right of possession into 
the land flowing with milk and honey ? We lie snoring in sleep, 
and drowse in idleness. 

We may justly be reproached with those words which 
Joshua spoke to the seven tribes which had not yet received 
their inheritance: 'How long are ye slack to possess the land 
which the Lord God of your fathers hath given you P' 1 He is 
indeed a foolish soldier who is content with victory if he has 
not been eager in the fight beforehand; he is lacking in man- 
hood if he desires to gain the victory before going out to 
battle. The farmer will be disappointed if, before he has 

1 Joslraa xvili, 3. 



laboured in the sowing of his seed, he seeks to reap the harvest; 
for it is certain that he who wishes to gather in the grain must 
first root out the bushes and briers. And the voice of God 
truly says to sinful man: Thorns and thistles shall it bring 
forth to thee'; 1 this earth, if it is to produce a rich harvest, must 
first endure the hoe and the ploughshare; so that, having been 
cultivated by many afflictions and by the discipline of perfect 
mortification, it may be made beautiful with the abundance of 
all the virtues, which are like a crop of rich fruits. 

Joshua figuratively urged the sons of Joseph to this work of 
husbandry when he said to them, who were complaining of 
the slenderness of their wretched portion: c lf thou be a great 
people, then get thee up to the wood country, and cut down 
for thyself there in the land of the Perizzites and of the giants, 
if mount Ephraim be too narrow for thee.' 2 Now, if I may 
without incongruity refer this to the matter in hand, he who 
has decided to be content with the Rule of the blessed Bene- 
dict alone has confined himself within the narrow territory of 
mount Ephraim. But listen, and you shall hear how the new 
Joshua urges you to the heights, and commands you to make 
haste towards a wider inheritance: 'We have written this rule 
in order that, by observing it, we may show ourselves to have 
some degree of goodness of life, and a beginning of holiness.' 3 
This is Mount Ephraim. But because he considers this portion 
to be a narrow one, he immediately goes beyond it to higher 
and broader things: 'But for him who would hasten to the 
perfection of religion, there are the teachings of the holy 
Fathers ... the Conferences of the Fathers and their Institutes* etc. 4 
Because these are so well known to you, there is no need for 
me to name them. 


But, since we who are lukewarm and base in no way strive 
to reach the heights, would to God that we might at least 

1 Gen. iii, 18. 2 Joshua xvii, 15. 

8 R.S.B. c. 73. 4 Ibid., loc cit. 



diligently plough the narrow fields of this little mountain; so 
that there might be no corner in all the precepts of the Rule so 
permitted to fall into neglect that it was not furrowed by the 
plough of our great efforts there where we see the most diffi- 
cult and exalted precepts set forth as if these were a steep moun- 
tain or the living rock itself. For although we wish to be 
counted among the ranks of soldiers, we do not take the 
trouble to wear the badges of virtue. We set before the eyes of 
men an appearance of integrity, but we do not bother to show 
that we have its reality in the sight of the hidden Judge. For 
there are some (I cannot say this without lamentation) who 
enter into the new life of religion without abandoning the old 
ways of their former life; these indeed are Gibeonites, not 
Israelites. Now you know that the inhabitants of Gibeon, 
smitten by the fear of death, came to the Israelites in a cunning 
and deceitful way, clothed in old garments and shoes, and 
bearing mouldy bread and old wineskins and sacks; soon after 
their lives were restored to them by means of the treaty which 
they obtained, their fraud was brought to light. Now Joshua, 
having learned of their guile, cursed them, and decreed that 
they must be hewers of wood and drawers of water for 

These Gibeonites, who go over to the Israelites through 
fear of death, symbolize those who take refuge in the ranks of 
the servants of God, not because they love perfection but 
because they tremble at the thought of the enormity of their 
crimes. Many of them, changed in outward appearance but not 
in heart, carry dry bread to eat because they have as yet no 
knowledge of the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 
They are clothed in old garments because, not having put off 
the old man, they do not know how to put on the new man 
which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. 1 
And all that they do seems hardened with age, because they 
persist in the evil ways of their old life, heedless of the words 
of the Apostle: *Be renewed in the spirit of your mind.' 2 
Those words which say: 'Old things are passed away; behold, 
1 Eph. iv, 24. 2 Ibid. 



all things are become new', 1 do not apply to them. They 
appear on the surface to have come to a new way of life; but 
in reality they remain in the old; for their behaviour does not 
bear witness to any reformation of their habits or new inten- 
tion. And such as these are punished by a curse; nor will they 
be permitted to share the inheritance of the Israelites. For they 
are not numbered among those to whom it is said: *Ye are 
thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.' 2 Now 
water is tasteless and wood is hard. And so they are com- 
manded to hew wood and to draw water; for being ignorant 
of the savour of spiritual wisdom, they must concern them- 
selves with the hard and savourless tasks of outward labour. 
And although they may seem by their service in these out- 
ward things to confer some benefit on the Church, yet, because 
they live as slaves, they cannot enter into possession of the 
inheritance of the Israelites. 


Nevertheless, some of these men, if admonished frequently 
and sternly corrected, if told of the heavy penalty which is 
their due, and threatened with the terror of the last judgment, 
will pass from servitude to freedom and rise up with the rest 
to establish their right to a share of the inheritance. They are 
symbolized by those tribes who were given, first by Moses, 
and then by Joshua, the task of cursing, as the Scripture bears 
witness: 'And all Israel, and their elders, and officers, and their 
judges stood on either side of the ark before the priests, the 
Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, as 
well the stranger, as he that was born among them; half of 
them over against Mount Gerizim, and half of them over 
against Mount Ebal. Now they who stood over against Mount 
Gerizim blessed the doers of the law; but they who stood over 
against Ebal cursed the transgressors of the law.' 3 Those whose 
office it was to bless symbolize those who seek the Lord's 

1 2 Cor. v, 17. 2 i Pet. iii, 9. 

3 Joshua viii, 33; Deut. xxvii, 12-13. 


service not through fear of punishment, but in the hope of 
heavenly reward and for the love of perfection, and who in 
all the actions of their holy lives bless God without ceasing. 
But those who were appointed to curse are like those who do 
not burn with love of perfection or yearn with desire for 
heavenly glory, but who observe the precepts of the law to 
escape the pains of hell. 

They are appointed to curse so that, while so doing, they 
may themselves return to a knowledge of what is right, and, 
pondering on the penalties which are meted out to sinners in 
the Scriptures, restrain themselves by fear from the evils of 
sinning. And so it clearly follows that those tribes which were 
appointed to bless are the nobler; they are the sons of the 
wives. Those appointed to curse are baseborn, the sons of 
handmaidens, namely Gad and Asher, Dan and Naphtali, and 
among them Reuben, who dishonoured his father's bed and 
Zabulon, the youngest son of Leah. 

It is noteworthy that we are told that all stood around the 
ark of the covenant, for none of them, whether baseborn or 
noble, whether lukewarm or fervent in their love of God, 
abandon holy Church. Now all these things were commanded 
by Moses, but put into execution by Joshua long afterwards. 
Moses represents the Law, and Joshua the Gospel. Not only 
did the old Law foretell that blessing was due to the just and 
that cursing would be meted out to sinners; the grace of the 
new Gospel has shown this to be so. But although some are 
noble, whose task is to bless, and others baseborn, who tremble 
with fear of being cursed; yet all alike, because they make 
common cause against the enemy, because they labour to- 
gether perseveringly to establish their right to the promised 
land, shall be granted a portion, and they shall be co-heirs 
with one another without any distinction of right. Neverthe- 
less, it is far more glorious that we, being zealous and strong, 
should be found to be invested with the titles of nobility, than 
that because of our weakness we should be marked by our 
base inferiority. 

Let us then fly from Ebal; and we must even more greatly 



despise the Gibeonites; so that we may not bear the yoke of 
slavery through being involved in outward observance alone, 
nor be reduced by our idleness to the status of baseborn sons, 
held in check only by the fear of hell. Let us establish our right 
to our inheritance with the weapons of virtue, so that we may 
extend the boundaries of our estate by the unremitting labours 
of our husbandry. But perhaps some idle fellows will reply in 
those words which the Scripture tells us the sons of Joseph 
used to Joshua: 'The hill is not enough for us: and all the 
Canaanites that dwell in the land of the valley have chariots of 
iron/ 1 Such as these seek the heights, but fear those who dwell 
in the depths; for they strive to hasten towards the summit of 
virtue, but mistrust thek ability to overcome the promptings 
of the vices of the flesh. But they are not allowed to sit back 
like weaklings; in the same place they are given their answer: 
'Thou art a great people, and hast great power: thou shalt not 
have one lot only: but the mountain shall be thine, and thou 
shalt cut down the wood and clear a space in which to dwell; 
and the outgoing from it shall be thine.* 2 And to give greater 
courage to the faint-hearted, almighty God Himself cries out: 
'Them will I drive out from before the children of Israel.' 3 
And Joshua encourages the warriors of the heavenly army, 
and promises them an easy victory over their enemies: Tear 
not, nor be dismayed, be strong and of good courage: for thus 
shall the Lord do to all your enemies, against whom ye fight/ 4 


There is another matter, dearest brethren, if I may speak 
familiarly to you as fellow-workers, of one mind in Christ; I 
would humbly beg you to renounce a certain custom which is 
observed in several monasteries of my acquaintance. Some 
rulers of monks, attributing to the power of the monastic rule 
more than is profitable, impose no penance on those coming 
from the world, however seriously these may have sinned, 

1 Joshua xvil, 16. * Ibid., loc. cit. 

a Ibid., xiii, 6. * Ibid., x, 25. 

9 I 


other than the^observance of the common way of life of the 
monastery. How thoughtless, how cruel, and above all how 
unwise this is, those who know anything at all of the matter 
will understand. For these men condemn their hearers to the 
mean condition of the Ebalites; they deprive them of zeal for 
penance; they do not exhort them to absolve their obligations 
and then, out of love of perfection, to seek the heights, but 
teach them to lie inert in shameful sloth, for ever held back by 
their fear of punishment, bound by their promise to pay their 
debts; so that they cannot, with those who stand by Mount 
Gerizim, bless the Lord in safety, but must stand by Mount 
Ebal with the sons of the handmaidens, terrified by the 
javelins of cursing. He who acts like this obviously does not 
know the difference between ten thousand talents and a hun- 
dred pence. For if we take into account the law of discretion, 
it is clear that the burden of satisfaction laid on each man must 
be in proportion to the weight of his crimes. He who has 
borrowed an ounce will repay it more easily than he who has 
borrowed a pound; nor must the man who steals a sheep be 
compelled to make the same reparation as him who steals 
an ox. 

If we consider the matter carefully, we will find that the very 
apostles themselves, the princely founders of our knowledge 
and our leaders in the Christian faith, had different tasks and 
fates given to them to correspond to the shortcomings of their 
former lives. St. Paul, because he took a cruel part in the 
murder of Stephen, endured more torments and pains than the 
others; St. Peter wiped out the stain of his marriage in the 
blood of his martyrdom; but John, choosing to be a virgin, 
was loved more than all the rest; and because, having re- 
nounced the world in boyhood, he committed no serious sin, 
he passed from this world not in the torments of martyrdom 
but sweetly and peacefully as one who falls asleep. And if that 
splendid preacher St. Paul could say: 'I am the least of the 
apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I 
persecuted the church of God'; 1 if he chastised his body and 

1 1 Cor. rv, 9. 



brought it into subjection; 1 if he refused for himself that right 
which he allowed to others, of living by the Gospel, and earned 
his bread by the work of his own hands; if he, whose labours 
were greatest of all, feared that he had not attained his goal; if 
he, I say, who had performed such splendid works of virtue, 
could yet have no faith in his apostleship, how dare we poor 
wretched creatures presume to rely on our slothful monastic 

It is true that the man who takes refuge in the monastic life 
puts an end to his evildoing. But what is the good of ceasing 
to commit sins unless we also endeavour to wipe out those 
which we have already committed, atoning for them by 
severe penances? If you do not believe me, see what the 
blessed Pope Gregory says about this in his book on the 
Pastoral Care: 'Those who have given up their sinful ways, 
but do not weep for them, must be warned, lest they think that 
the sins to whose number they have ceased to add, but which 
they have not cleansed by their tears, are already absolved/ 
These matters are so clearly and so reasonably set forth there 
that he who reads it through carefully will have no further 
doubts on the subject; I have not added any more of it here 
because I wish to avoid wearying you by being verbose. How 
indeed can he be sure that his offences will be pardoned who, 
coming to a place of penitence, performs no penance ? 

It may perhaps be said that the rule does not prescribe for 
those coming from the world any fast except the common one. 
To this I answer that St. Benedict, in setting down his rules 
for monks, did not destroy those holy canons which deal with 
sinners; rather, he gave new strength to all the writings of the 
Catholic Fathers. To those who embark on the monastic pro- 
fession he gave a rule of life; he did not, however, remit the 
sinner's obligation to do penance; for otherwise there might 
be just complaints and murmurings both from the boys and 
from those grown men who come to the monastic life without 
having committed serious sin if they were forced to follow the 
same rule of life as those burdened with sin. If we must never 

1 1 Cor. ix, 27. 


fast or perform any other act of penance otherwise than It Is 
prescribed in the Rule, why does St. Benedict command: The 
superior may break his fast for the sake of the guests, unless It 
happens to be a principal fast-day' P 1 

Make haste now, and read, scan the pages, turn over the 
leaves, make a most diligent search; and then show me where 
the holy doctor has commanded by his authority the obser- 
vance of this 'principal fast-day' which he mentions here in 
passing. When you fail to find the place, you will be bound to 
admit that the holy man did not wish us to observe only those 
things which he himself set down, and that he did not annul 
the precepts of the earlier Fathers in establishing his own. But, 
lest any man should be so bold as to reproach me, saying that 
by my disparagements I am sitting in judgment upon and 
making light of our holy order, let me say here that I have so 
high a regard for it as to think it second in dignity only to the 
apostolic order, and confess that it is no less than a second 
baptism. But I wish to repeat also the words of the prince of 
the apostles to certain men who wished to be converted: 
'Repent; and be baptized every one of ye.' 2 By what stretch of 
the imagination can that man who does not trouble to weep 
for the sins he has committed be said to be safe, when the 
greatest shepherd and teacher of the Church believed that 
penance was a necessary condition of that sacrament which 
has more power than any other to absolve us from sin ? The 
holy rule is set forth with skilful discretion and regulated with 
balance and moderation for the benefit of those who truly 
desire to renounce the world, and who do so freely, out of love 
for perfection, not for the sake of those who, aghast at the 
enormity of their crimes, are compelled by necessity to flee 
from it. It was written, I say, for those who come out of love 
for obedience; not for those who are dragged to the monastery 
by the fear of hell; for those who desire to grow in grace, not 
for those who endeavour to escape punishment. This is quite 
plain at the very beginning of the rule if we carefully consider 
to whom it Is that the Holy Spirit directs his words. 
* R.S.B. c. 53. * Acts ii, 38. 



I say the Holy Spirit. For it was certainly not that holy and 
humble man St. Benedict who, at the very beginning of his 
work, sat himself in the master's seat and usurped the place 
of the loving Father: 'Hearken, O my son, to the precepts of 
thy Master, and incline the ear of thine heart; willingly receive 
the admonition of thy loving Father.' 1 Rather, the Holy 
Spirit made his servant the instrument of his voice, just as he 
did at the beginning of the books of prophecy, when he cried, 
through Isaias: 1 have nourished and brought up children." 2 

Let us see, then, to whom he directs what he has to say, for 
what sort of man all that follows is written. He says: 'To thee, 
therefore, my words are now addressed, whoever thou art that, 
renouncing thine own will, dost take up the strong and bright 
weapons of obedience, in order to fight for the Lord Christ, 
our true king.' 3 As far as we can gather from the words of the 
holy man, the school of the holy Rule was established more 
for the learning of obedience than for the performance of 
penance. This is not to say that it excludes either the sinner or 
the just man, or rejects any sort of person; but rather that its 
whole strength and purpose lies in the teaching of the rules of 

I know that in writing in this way I am displeasing some of 
the brethren, namely those who believe that a turning to our 
way of life brings about both the absolution of our offences 
and the perfection of virtue. I hope it may be enough if I reply 
that in setting forth my opinions I have no desire to cast a 
snare upon any man, -as the Apostle says, 4 but rather wish to 
urge you on towards the good. You may wonder why I write 
at such length on these matters; let me explain myself, so that 
you may see that they are not irrelevant. A certain brother 
came to us from a monastery, and confessed to me the sins 
which he had committed as a layman. If I understood rightly, 
it seemed to me that according to the decrees of the holy 
canons he was bound to perform seventy years' penance. He 
had been wearing the habit of religion for almost seven years; 

1 R.S.B. Prol. * Isa. i, 2. 

8 R.S.B. Prol. * i Cor. vii, 35. 



but when I asked him how much penance he had akeady done 
for these sins, he replied that he had confessed all these matters 
to the Lord Abbot, who had imposed upon him no other 
penances above and beyond the common practice of the 
monastery; because he declared that his changed way of life 
was in itself enough to procure full absolution for all his sins. 
What can I say ? I must admit that I was gravely displeased by 
all this; I looked down, I trembled, I cried that the man had 
been misled; for he had not even begun to do his penance, 
whereas if only he had imposed upon himself certain morti- 
fications, he could already have completed it. 


I trust that these and many other matter, of which some 
deluded men, who believe themselves to be acting rightly, are 
unaware, are displeasing to you also, dearly beloved; and that, 
since you have the power by your free authority to correct 
these men in other matters of sin, you will show them that 
these also are to be shunned that they may the more carefully 
avoid them. But let us return to the matter in hand. The Holy 
Rule has become a great and spacious mansion, in which all 
sorts and conditions of men may dwell, boys and old men, the 
strong and the weak, the delicate, and those who differ from 
one another in every conceivable way. And so we must not 
deceive ourselves with a vain belief in our own safety; we 
must not boldly claim for our own behaviour all the forbear- 
ance of the Rule. Although the public highway is open to all 
travellers, he is a foolish voyager who endeavours to take up 
the whole of its width with his great strides. The spring which 
flows in the centre is for any man's use; but he who wants to 
claim the whole for himself is an arrogant fellow. I believe 
that the same is true of the mildness of the Holy Rule; and I 
beseech you that every brother who is concerned for his sal- 
vation should recognize his own capacities and adopt for his 
own use not all the indulgence which the rule permits, btit 
only as much as is necessary to him. For the commands of 



authority are one thing, and kindly indulgence quite another. 
A command cannot be ignored without sin; but while it is not 
wrong to take advantage of relaxations, it is good not to do 
so. Clear proof of what I wish to say can be found in the words 
of the Rule itself, if we look carefully. St. Benedict says in one 
place: 'Considering the infirmity of the weak, we think that one 
half pint of wine a day is sufficient for each: but let those to 
whom God gives the endurance of abstinence know that they 
shall have their own reward.' 1 Now the same may be said of 
the drinking of wine by monks as the Apostle says of mar- 
riage: 'But I speak this by permission, not of commandment.' 2 
And he goes on to say: Tor I would that all men were even as I 
myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after 
this manner, and another after that.' 3 

The Apostle desired one thing, but allowed another. He 
desired that all men should be as he himself was, free from the 
entanglements of marriage; but since he could not convince 
them of this, he was compelled by necessity to allow marriage, 
thinking it better that they should lie on the marriage-bed 
like sick men than that they should break their necks by falling 
into the abyss of riotous living. But blessed is the man who 
listens to the Apostle when he commands that which he 
desires, rather than when he permits that which he does not 
desire. In the same way, the author of the Holy Rule, with 
carefully weighed discretion, commands some things by virtue 
of his authority, and permits others of necessity because of the 
frailty of the weaker brethren. Now when he says: 'Although 
we read that wine ought by no means to be the drink of 
monks', 4 and elsewhere: 'Although the life of a monk ought at 
all times to have about it a Lenten character, yet, since few 
have strength enough for this', 5 and many other things of this 
kind, it is just as if he were saying: I show you the heights, but, 
seeing that you are still hobbling along on weak limbs, I lead 
you through the plains; if anyone has sufficient strength, 
though, let him leave the level ground which I unwillingly 

1 R.S.B. c. 40. * i Cor. vii, 6. 8 Ibid., 7. 

* R.S.B. c. 40. 5 Ibid., 49- 

o 97 


allow you to traverse and go to the high places which I long 
for. It is certainly better to save one's soul in Segor than to be 
destroyed by fire and brimstone in Sodom. It is better to 
marry than to burn. But how much more glorious to scale the 
mountain-tops than to remain in mean obscurity in wretched 

To return once more to my subject, it is undoubtedly better 
to live slothfully in the spiritual order than to perish utterly in 
the life of the world. But how much finer it is to wipe out at 
once all the marks of vice and to hasten with burning desire 
to the peaks of virtue than to sleep away our time in idleness, 
our only safeguard the profession which we have made. It is 
as if the promulgator of the Holy Rule were to say to his 
hearers: If you take advantage of the concessions which I make, 
it is not sinful; but if you do not do so, you shall be rewarded; 
you will incur no punishment if you are gentle to yourselves, 
but if you renounce indulgence for the Lord's sake you will 
win a crown this is for those who are not burdened by sin. 
As for the rest, he who knows that he has done unlawful 
things must now abstain even from that which is lawful; he 
who in his pride has done that which is forbidden must now 
humbly renounce that which is permitted. Many who live soft 
and easy lives, when they are urged to follow a stricter and 
narrower road, plead and argue in their own defence; one of 
them will say: I live as I am commanded to do; when I take 
advantage of concessions I keep the precepts of the Rule. 
Then, that he may seem, as befits a conqueror, to fight from a 
superior position, he springs forth into boldness: Does the 
Rule deprive me of my liberty to do these things, and others 
like them? Does it not rather permit me to do so? Truly, 
those who argue in this way have not learned to distinguish 
between what the writer wishes and what he is compelled to 
permit; they have not recognized the fact that some things are 
allowed as concessions, whereas others are the commands of 

Such a man as this must die in the desert, for while he is 
dwelling in shame among the pleasures of the flesh, he cannot 


strive to obtain by his labours and struggles the land which is 
his right; or else he has established himself with the people of 
Reuben and Galaad before crossing the Jordan and so has not 
deserved to possess the land flowing with milk and honey with 
the other tribes after their victory; he has set a limit to his 
efforts. And because while he is still on his journey he believes 
that he has akeady reached his home, he does not win his por- 
tion of that inheritance in which alone is true rest and abiding 


For our whole new way of life, and our renunciation of the 
world, has only one end: rest. But a man can only come to 
that state of rest if he stretches his sinews in many labours and 
strivings so that, when all the clamour and disturbance is at an 
end, the soul may be lifted up by the grace of contemplation 
to search for the very face of truth. Since we may only attain 
this rest, as I have said, through our labour and strife, how can 
any man find it who has not yet engaged in those battles which 
are here appointed to us? How can anyone enter the king's 
palace without crossing the forecourt which lies outside it? 
How shall that man who has not learned to sow seed, who has 
not pruned his vine-shoots or broken up the clods of earth 
with a hoe or ploughed his virgin fields, gather into his barns 
the threshed grain, or fill his casks from the flowing streams of 
new wine ? 

Now it is well known that Laban had two daughters, and 
that Jacob desired the younger of them in marriage, but that 
he could not come to her arms until he had taken to himself 
her elder sister, unwittingly and therefore unwillingly. But 
since you to whom I speak know all this, there is no need for 
me to give a lengthy account. Now, Laban means 'cleansing*. 
Every man who turns to God is cleansed from the blackness 
of sin by the grace of absolution. God Himself promised this, 
when He said: 'Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be 
as white as snow.' 1 This that happy sinner declared who said: 

1 Isa. i, 18. 


*I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow/ 1 
Leah means 'labouring': Rachel means 'the word' or 'the vision 
of the beginning'. If we read the Scriptures carefully, we find 
that Jacob did not serve for a single day because he desired 
Leah, but that he endured all those weeks and years of servi- 
tude for Rachel alone; moreover, we find that he bore with the 
sight of Leah. Does any man turn to God that he may endure 
labour and tribulation, and suffer temptation? Every man who 
seeks God does so with one hope and aim: that he may find 
rest; that he may rest in the joy of the highest contemplation 
as if in the arms of the lovely Rachel; in other words, that 
through the word which he hears he may aspire to that vision 
of the beginning which he has sought. 

But he must be tried in the heat of many battles before he 
can attain that quietness of intimate sweetness which he 
desires. He must first bear the yoke of slavery, so that after- 
wards he may by right be raised to the stature of perfect free- 
dom. He serves his seven years under cleansing grace when 
he keeps those seven commandments of the Decalogue which 
are concerned with love of one's neighbour; so, impelled at 
first by fear and bowed down by the yoke of slavery, he may at 
least make a start with the commands of the Old Law, so that 
he honours his parents, does not commit adultery, does not 
kill or steal or bear false witness, or covet another's wife or his 
neighbours' goods. When he has observed all these precepts he 
is not, as he had hoped, brought straightway to the joys of 
contemplation, to enjoy, as it were, the long-awaited beauty 
of Rachel; in her stead, he must share his bed with Leah, whom 
he does not desire, for while we dwell in the darkness of 
human ignorance we are enjoined to be patient in labour. And 
yet he has many children of her,' for through his striving he 
obtains the rich fruits of spiritual profit. 

And so he bears with her, that he may come at last to that 
other who he loves without ceasing. He is persuaded to toil in 
servitude for another seven years; for it is necessary that he 
keep yet another seven commandments, but more freely, being 

* Ps. li, 7. 

i oo 


now no longer a servant of the Law, but a son of the Gospel; 
in other words, he must be poor In spirit and meek, he must 
mourn, and hunger and thirst after righteousness, he must be 
merciful and pure in heart, and finally he must be a peacemaker. 
Now, if it were possible, men would wish not to endure labour 
and suffer trouble; they would desire to come at once, at the 
very beginning of their apprenticeship, to the delights of fair 
contemplation. But these things cannot be in the land of the 
dying, only in the land of the living; that is the meaning of 
what Laban said to Jacob: e lt must not be so done in our 
country, to give the younger before the first-born/ 1 And she is 
rightly called the elder who comes first in the order of time. 
Now in the training of men, the labour of good works comes 
before the peace of contemplation. Therefore, when these two 
spans of seven years are over, the one of the old law, the other 
of evangelic grace, he comes at last to the arms of Rachel 
whom he has desired for so long; for he who would attain to 
the joys of heavenly contemplation must first strive to fulfil 
the precepts of both Testaments. 


But, since no good man is content within the bounds of his 
perfection, and desires to bring forth, out of his spiritual 
abundance, sons for the Lord, after Jacob had been joined in 
marriage to the two sisters he did not hesitate to take to him- 
self thek handmaidens also, so that he might sow the seed of a 
richer posterity. In order that we may understand that all things 
abound in the mysteries of the spirit, the names of the hand- 
maidens are shown to have a symbolic meaning also. Now 
Bala means 'of long standing'. Certainly, because the human 
tongue cannot convey in bare words the meaning of a spiritual 
substance, in the teaching of wisdom it sometimes strives to 
instruct its hearers by the use of worldly images. These images 
are brought to mind from our old life which was given over 
to the bodily senses; they are used for our instruction when 
1 Gen. xxix, 26. 


we ate listening to something concerning the incomprehen- 
sible and unchangeable essence of the Godhead. Rachel, there- 
fore, preferred rather to have sons by her handmaid than to 
remain completely barren; for the teaching of wisdom, the 
grace of contemplation conveys to her hearers by means of 
outward knowledge and the forms of visible objects those 
things which she hides in the secret places of the mind 
concerning things invisible; and so, in a way, she has sons 
by her handmaid when she bears spiritual children to the 
Lord through that knowledge which is more lowly than 

Zilpab means "open-mouthed*; so this handmaid is the type 
of those whose mouths are open in the preaching of the 
Gospel, but whose hearts are shut; of whom it was written: 
'This people honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is 
far from me', 1 and of whom the Apostle says: 'Thou that 
preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?' 2 Neverthe- 
less, Leah received sons from this handmaid to be heirs with 
the others; for the active life has gained many sons of the 
kingdom through such preachers, of whom Truth Himself 
said: C AU whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and 
do, but do ye not after their works/ 3 And the Apostle says: 
'Every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is preached; 
and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.' 4 

That is enough from the pages of the holy writings, since I 
do not intend to expound the whole of the Scriptures. But let 
us remember from all this that just as Jacob took to himself 
all those women and had sons by them for Rachel's sake alone, 
so whoever, established in cleansing grace, desires to bear 
fruit for God out of his spiritual abundance, must strive always 
to obtain the grace of contemplation. 

But what shall we say of this, when we see that some who 

1 Matt, xv, 8. 2 Rom. ii, 21. 

8 Matt, aodii, 3. 4 PhiL i, 18. 



dwell in the house of Laban are so slothful and heedless that 
they neither strive for the beauty of Rachel nor toil for Leah ? 
Such are those men who, established in a monastery, neither 
pursue the grace of contemplation by means of solitude and 
persistence in prayer, nor chastise themselves by the severity 
of their fasting and labours. They are either completely free 
from the bonds of marriage, or else satisfied with the embraces 
of the handmaids; because they either have the leisure of the 
utterly idle, or if they do anything, do it not with a view to 
bringing forth the fruit of the active or the contemplative 
lives, but rather that they may appease the hunger of their will 
and deskes. 

These are they who, whatever they are doing, always want to 
be wandering about and rushing from one place to another; 
who, since they cannot be calm, wish to appear obedient, and 
who therefore conceal the diseases of vice under which they 
labour beneath a cloak of righteous behaviour. They are not 
worn out by toil for obedience sake; they resolve, rather, to 
obey their superiors so that they may not lose the opportuni- 
ties which their work provides; for they endure idleness, but 
enjoy work, because the roaming about and turning of the 
mill of affairs is sweet pleasure to them. For there are some 
palsied souls which love to trouble themselves with much 
running about. If a man is suffering from the disease of bodily 
paralysis he is frequently roused and shaken by his attendants, 
so that in this way he may be revived. Truly, these spiritual 
paralytics must either be said to be united to the handmaids 
alone, in which case their sons have no right of inheritance, or, 
if they consider themselves free, do not wish, if I may put it so, 
to unite themselves with the handmaids for the sake of the 
daughters of Laban, but, reversing the order, desire to be 
joined with the daughters for the sake of the handmaids; they 
do not toil for obedience' sake, but rather obey in order that 
they may toil. Nor do they follow Jacob's example in applying 
the fruits of their work to the active and contemplative lives; 
if their works show any mark of the active life, or if they say 
anything concerning the contemplative life, it is not that they 



seek the fruits of spiritual profit, but only that they strive after 
the authority of their own wills. 


Moreover (if I may speak angrily) those who follow the 
rabble of grammarians, who, forsaking spiritual studies, desire 
to learn all the follies of worldly skill, who, despising the rule 
of Benedict, love to apply themselves to the rules of Donatus; 1 
such as these are of that number. These men are bored by the 
intricacies of ecclesiastical teaching and long for worldly know- 
ledge; this is like deserting the chaste spouse lying upon the 
bridal-couch of faith and consorting with the harlots of the 
stage. Seduced by the charms of whores, they reject the free 
women, so that when they have broken their marriage- 
contract they may be joined to the bondwomen. They have 
deserted the daughters of Laban and gone to the women of 
the brothels; and so indeed they seem old, like Bala, and 
skilled in empty sophistication of speech like Zilpah. No doubt 
they will say that the reason why they labour at these frivolities 
of worldly learning is so that they may derive richer profit 
from their spiritual studies. Did not Jacob endure the em- 
braces of the concubines as a result of his wives* pleas ? If it 
had been otherwise their children would have borne the stigma 
of illegitimacy and could not have shared in the inheritance. 
So they look for the support of the authority of the Fathers, 
and read them diligently. 

They argue, then, that since Holy Scripture allows a wife to 
give her handmaiden to her husband so that he may have 
children, monks may spend their time in the pursuit of worldly 
knowledge. But if Gregory, Jerome and other holy doctors 
deny this, then they must know that they have been led astray 
by the unlawful love of loose women; and that their behaviour 
is equivalent to a treacherous fight against the marriage- 
contract. For we are not only forbidden to strive for such 
worthless learning after we have made our holy profession; 
1 See note i, p. 16. 


we are also commanded to reject all that Is unnecessary of 
what we had previously learned. So the law of Moses decrees 
that a woman taken in battle and chosen by the victor to be 
his wife shall be deprived of all bodily superfluities: 'She shall 
shave her head and pare her nails; and she shall put the raiment 
of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, 
and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after 
that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she 
shall be thy wife.' 1 We shave the head of the woman when we 
cut away all thoughts and opinions which are unnecessary to 
the pursuit of rational learning: we pare her nails when we 
prune out the dead works of superstition. And she is com- 
manded to lay aside the clothing in which she was captured so 
that she may strip off the acquired surface of idle tales and 
fictions and show forth the real truth of right reason. 

She mourns for her father and mother because we must 
believe that the authors of the liberal arts are dead, and weep 
with compassion for them, who have perished in error. Now 
it is the nature of women that they should be cleansed each 
month by an effusion of their blood; and so we are ordered to 
go in to this woman after a month, so that when art and learn- 
ing have been purified from all taint of superstition we may 
receive them in marriage; having become an Israelite she may 
be wedded to an Israelite and may yield up a rich offspring of 
spiritual works. And all these things certainly apply to those 
who while they were in the world were taught the arts of 
liberal studies. Moreover, how can it be right for us who are 
not permitted to speak even with guests, in whom Christ 
Himself is addressed and received, who are not allowed to 
open our mouths except to ask a question, and who do not 
dare at recreation to discuss even the Holy Scriptures, 
to burst in boldly upon the theatrical schools of the gram- 
marians and to hold idle conversation with worldly men 
as if we were in the middle of a noisy market ? I say all this 
against those monks who are involved in the trivialities of 
worldly learning so that I may show them how far they have 
1 Deut. xxi, 12-13. 



strayed in their vanity from the straight path of righteousness. 


Moreover, it is necessary that every brother who with a 
perfect heart renounces the world should unlearn whatever he 
knows that is harmful and, as far as he can, consign it to per- 
petual oblivion. He should be unable to argue the rival merits 
of cooks, or care for rich and splendid food; he must lose his 
skill in sophisticated or captious conversation, nor may he 
make use of rhetorical display by producing ringing declama- 
tions, or raise a smile from anyone by his witty or facetious 
remarks. Let him love fasting and cherish his lack of the needs 
of life; let him fly from the sight of men and bind himself by a 
severe silence; let him withdraw from all outward affairs and 
keep watch over his lips, so that they do not engage in idle 
conversation. Let him seek the secret places of his mind where 
he may strive with all his might to see the face of his Creator; 
let him long for the grace of tears and entreat his God earnestly 
for them in daily prayers. For the moisture of tears cleanses 
the soul from all stain and makes fertile the fields of the heart 
so that they may bring forth the seeds of virtue. Often the 
wretched soul sheds her fruit and the beauty of her leaves as if 
touched by the frost of winter; grace ebbs away and she is left 
abandoned and barren, stripped of the glory of her fallen 
flowers. But as soon as tears well forth, the gift of Him who 
sees in secret, the soul flourishes again, the ice of idle sloth is 
melted, and like a tree in spring, warmed by the south wind, 
she is clothed anew in the flower of her virtues. 

The tears which come from God approach the judgment 
seat of the divine mercy with perfect confidence, and, obtaining 
at once what they ask, are assured of the certain forgiveness of 
our sins. Tears are the trustees in the making of peace between 
God and man, and true and wise masters in the doublings of 
human ignorance. For if we are wondering whether or not we 
are pleasing to God, we shall never have greater certitude than 
when we pray with genuine tears. Whatever our souls resolve 



upon them need never be doubted again. Tears wash away all 
taint of filth from the sinful woman; 1 they give to unclean 
hands the right to touch the Lord's head as well as His feet. 2 
Because of his tears, the apostle who denied his Lord did not 
utterly perish as a result of his sin; indeed, he was given lord- 
ship over the other senators of the heavenly court. By the 
grace of tears David, after he had sunk into the hellish pit of 
adultery and murder, did not lose his kingdom and his life; on 
the contrary, he was given an inviolable promise that an hek 
would be born of his line who should possess the throne of 
his kingdom and all the kingdoms of the earth for ever. Be- 
cause of his tears, almighty God added fifteen years to the life 
of the dying Hezekiah, and delivered him and the city of 
Jerusalem out of the hand of the king of Assyria. By reason of 
her tears, the divine mercy brought it about that Sara the 
daughter of Raguel was freed from the chains of shameful 
taunts, and God chose her in the person of His angel to be the 
wife of an honourable man. By her tears, Esther ensured that 
God would deliver the people of Israel from their common 
danger of death and that the sentence of hanging which he had 
prepared for another should be suffered by Haman himself. In 
the same way, her tears made it possible for Judith to cut off 
the head of Holofernes and to keep the pure flower of her 
chastity in the chamber of delight and seduction. 

What shall I say of Cornelius the centurion, who through 
the grace of tears deserved to be visited by the apostle, and 
who at once, forsaking the errors of the Gentiles, was reborn 
in Christ to a new life ? Need I remind you of Susannah, who 
when she fled to the protection of tears was at once rescued 
from the hands of those who were dragging her to her death? 
The sentence of death was laid instead upon her false accusers; 
thus, by the courage of a young man, innocent blood was 
spared. But if I were to tell you of all the graces conferred by 
tears, the day would be at an end before I had finished. It is 
tears'which cleanse the soul from the stain of sin and strengthen 
the wandering mind in prayer. Tears bring forth joy from sad- 
i Luke vii, 37-58. a Matt, xxvi, 7. 

I0 7 


ness; when they spring from the eyes of the flesh, they raise us 
up to the hope of eternal blessedness. So powerful is their voice 
in the ears of the Creator that nothing for which they ask can 
be refused; the Psalmist himself often used them as his means 
of approach, and that he clearly knew how efficacious they 
were is shown from his saying: 'Hear my prayer, O Lord and 
give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears/ 1 He did 
not ask the Lord to behold with His eyes, but to hear with 
His ears the tears; this shows clearly that tears have voices. It 
is certain that when tears plead in the presence of the loving 
Judge, they are never at a loss, but claim mercy as if it were 
their right and rejoice with confidence at having obtained 
what they asked for. O tears of spiritual joy, better than honey 
or the honeycomb and sweeter than any nectar! You who 
renew the minds lifted up to God with the pleasant sweetness 
of a secret savour and water dry and wasting hearts at their 
very core with the stream of heavenly grace! For the sweetness 
and savour of earthly banquets delight the palates of those who 
eat them, yet do not penetrate to their inmost parts; but the 
savour of divine contemplation wholly fills us inwardly, and 
there quickens and sweetens us. Weeping eyes strike terror 
into the devil, who so fears the assaults of springing tears that 
he flees from them as if from hailstones falling from storm- 
clouds or a tempest of raging winds. For like a foaming torrent 
in spate which washes the river-bed clean of all its filth, a 
stream of flowing tears cleanses the soul of the weeper from 
the seeds of devilish cunning and all the pestilence of its foul 


But this water has its source in fire; he who wishes to 
abound in these flowing streams must first kindle in the fur- 
nace of his heart the fire of divine love. I can explain this more 
clearly if I remind you of certain historical events recounted 
in the second book of Maccabees. The Scriptures say: 'When 
our fathers were led into Persia, the priests, who were then 

1 Ps. xrsix, 12. 


worshippers of God, took fire from the altar and hid it secretly 
in a valley where there was a deep dry well and they put it in 
safety into the well, so that the place where they had hidden 
it was unknown to any. Many years later it pleased God that 
Nehemiah should be sent by the king of the Persians; he sent 
the kinsmen of those priests who had hidden the fire to search 
for it; and as they have told us, they found no fire, but thick 
water.' 1 Of all this, what is important from the spiritual point 
of view is this: that in the first place fire was hidden in the deep 
dry well in the valley, and afterwards the searchers found not 
fire but thick water. The deep dry well may fittingly be said to 
represent the soul which searches for God with genuine and 
perfect intent; for such a soul is barren of the flowing delights 
of carnal pleasure and has dug deeply beneath the rubble of 
earthly desires; it is to be found in the valley of true humility. 
The sacrificial fire is put into this well when the flame of divine 
love springs up in the soul of one of the elect and the holy 
soul burns with heavenly desire. But the fire is turned into 
water, for from the fire of divine love spring the tears of 

It is noteworthy that the water which was found was said to 
be not pure but thick. This thick water certainly symbolizes 
the tears of compunction, thickened without doubt by the rich 
fat of divine grace. The Prophet longed to be nourished by 
this fat when he said: 'My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow 
and fatness/ 2 And the same fatness was promised by another 
prophet, who said: 'Your soul shall delight itself in fatness/ 3 
Again, it was said: 'May the Lord remember all thy offerings 
and accept thy fat burnt-sacrifice/ 4 

Nor must we overlook the fact that those who hid away this 
fire simply put it in a safe place; they did not extinguish it. 
This is certainly because the fire of divine love, which we 
kindle on the altar of our heart so that we may, at the very 
beginning of our new life, offer a sweet sacrifice to God from 
the spices of our good works, must always burn secretly within 

1 2 Mace, i, 19-20. 2 Ps. Ixiii, 5. 

3 Isa. Iv, 2. 4 Ps. xx, 3. 



us; but it must not spread outwardly the flames of vainglory. 
It is made safe by the quieting of its own flames, but it is not 
robbed of the strength of its heat; and so it is not completely 
destroyed, but later the fire is miraculously turned into water. 
And this water of the tears of compunction not only cleanses 
us from the contagion of sin; it also commends our good^ works 
to God and makes them pleasing in His sight. Any sacrifice of 
good works becomes sweet in the eyes of the heavenly Judge 
if it is sprinkled with the tears of a contrite heart. So it will not 
come amiss if we add: 'And Nehemiah the priest commanded 
that the sacrifices which were laid there and the wood and all 
that was laid on the altar should be sprinkled with that water.' 1 

As soon as we pour the water of compunction on the 
sacrifice of our deeds, a brightness shines upon our souls and 
makes light whatever was dark in them, or lay hidden in 
shadow. Then a certain ray of secret light reveals itself to us, 
and pours into all the hidden places of our soul a new clarity of 
sweet splendour. That is why, in the passage to which I refer, 
after it is stated 'Nehemiah the priest commanded that some of 
the water should be drawn and brought to him and sprinkled 
on the sacrifices which were laid there and the wood and all 
that was laid on the altar', the history goes on to say: 'This 
was done, and the time was at hand, and the sun, which had 
been in a cloud, shone forth once more; and a great fire was 
kindled, so that all were astonished.' 2 

We have akeady been told that water was found in the place 
of fire; now on the other hand we hear that through the 
sprinkling of water a great fire was kindled. So water is born 
of fire, and then in its turn fire is produced from water. This is 
because the grace of compunction springs from the fire of 
divine love, and in their turn tears of compunction increase 
the strength of heavenly desire. Each depends on the other, 
and each is responsible for the other, for tears of compunction 
flow from our love of God, and on the other hand, because of 
our tears, our souls burn more fiercely with love of God. The 
soul in which this mutual change and alternation takes place 

1 2 Mace, i, 21- 2 Ibid., 22. 



will certainly be washed clean of the stains of its guilt. That is 
why the Scripture goes on to say: 'And Nehemiah called that 
place Nephthar, which means "purification".* 1 The place in 
which we offer sacrifice, in which water and fire carry out their 
mutual task, is the faithful soul. It too may fittingly be called 
'purification', for at times it is consumed by the fire of heavenly 
love, and at others it is cleansed by the tears of a contrite heart, 
as if it were being washed in the waters of a second baptism. 

Isaiah had a deep insight into these alternating changes and 
varieties of spiritual mutation; did he not say: 'Thy light shall 
arise in obscurity and thy darkness shall be as the noonday; 
and the Lord will give thee an everlasting rest, and fill thy soul 
with brightness, and shall deliver thy bones* ? 2 That is the fire 
hidden in the well. See how this fire is turned into water: 'And 
thou shalt be as a watered garden and as a spring of water that 
never faileth.' Lastly, that you may know that this water is 
changed once more into fire, and that the fervour of divine 
love is increased by the grace of tears, he adds: 'Then shalt 
thou delight in the Lord, and I will lift thee up above the high 
places of the earth.' 3 


I feel that I cannot pass over in silence a certain thing which 
happened to me. When I had written as far as this, the Lord's 
Day intervened, and then certain matters came to light, and 
my concern for them further prevented me from going on 
with writing this. Then a certain boy named Sylvester who 
was concerned in the writing let me give myself due credit; 
I did not dictate it to him, but when I had written it on tablets 
he would copy it onto parchment was misled by so cunning 
a wile of our wicked enemy that he burst suddenly into tears, 
and could hardly check their floods by night or day, except at 
the hours of eating and sleeping; he refused to take any wine, 
and sustained himself on the barest modicum of food; but he 
slept as much as he possibly could. In the meantime, the devil 

1 Ibid. 2 Isa. Iviii. 8 Isa. Iviii, 14. 



put it into his head that he should seek the solitude of the upper 
hermitage, where he would rarely, if ever, see any of his fellow 
men; when we offered him the chance of becoming a true 
recluse, however, he replied that he did not at all want to 
become a completely enclosed hermit, but wished to live some- 
where where he could be free and alone, and his comings and 
goings would not be watched over. Naturally, all the brothers 
were agreed in opposing this piece of stubbornness, and de- 
clared that this was probably nothing but a trick and a wile of 
Satan. But he was stubborn and wilful, believing in the authority 
of his flowing tears, and remained immovable in the desire 
by which he had been seized at the suggestion of our wicked 
foe. I think that our old enemy had stumbled upon a suitable 
instrument for misleading when he saw what Sylvester himself 
had copied down a little earlier in this very work that when 
we are not sure whether or not we are pleasing to God, we 
will never have greater reassurance than when we pray with 
genuine tears. He did not heed what was written just before: 
that only those tears which come from God approach the 
judgement seat of the divine mercy, not those which are in- 
duced by the stratagems of the cunning waylayer. 

In his negligence he overlooked the fact that I said: 'All 
those who truly weep/ For he weeps not truly, but falsely 
whose false tears are sent by the lying spirit. The blessed Pope 
Gregory wrote of a similar situation in his Moralia, when he 
said: 'But the hand of remorse weighs very carefully these 
vices which the old enemy hides under appearances of virtue. 
He who truly grieves inwardly over his outward actions fore- 
sees clearly what should not be done. For if the force of com- 
punction deeply affects us, all the clamour of evil suggestion is 
silenced at once. And if our heart is truly grieved within us, 
our vices will not be able to speak against us.' You see that the 
great doctor, whose opinions here agree with my own foolish 
sayings, does not say *If our heart is grieved within us*, but 
c lf our heart is truly grieved within us'. He clearly implies that 
the sorrow which pierces the soul which God has breathed 
upon is one thing, but that which produces, by the deceit of 



our cunning adversary, feigned tears, which only seem to come 
from a sorrowing heart, is quite another; and that those tears 
which the spirit of lies and error simulates are one thing and 
quite different from those by which the Spirit of Truth washes 
away the filth and rust from our souls. 

To return to the substance of my story because he was 
given permission to live in a solitary place a short while ago, 
he was rash enough to cut himself off completely, and used to 
wander in vagabond fashion to other places; but he simply put 
his trust in his tears and utterly refused to take any notice of 
impartial advice; nor did he believe that it was possible that 
he should be in any way misled, since remorse daily flooded 
him with frequent streams of tears. What next? The egg which 
the viper was cherishing in the nest of his bosom hatched out 
at last its familiar offspring. For Sylvester begged to be 
allowed to look for a little while at a book which was very 
precious to me; and he cut out from its centre by stealth four 
quaternions, then, frightened by the pangs of conscience, and 
not wishing to be bound in chains, he stood in front of his 
cell, threatening to wound with his knife either himself or any- 
one else who came near him. It was then abundantly clear that 
the sort of tears he produced did not come from heavenly dew, 
but had gushed forth from the bilge-water of hell. I have told 
you all this, brethren, not to magnify the disgrace of our 
offending brother, but so that you may endeavour to be careful 
and vigilant even where good things are concerned. 


I should now like to give a short account of the various 
offices of the monastery, and to set forth the things which it is 
right that those who administer these offices should observe. 

In the first place, therefore, O venerable abbot, do what you 
command others to do, practise what you preach, fulfil your 
own orders; your way of life must not be at variance with 
your words, there must be no distinction between what you 
do and what you say; the authority of the ruler must not teach 

H 113 


one thing while the behaviour of the monk proclaims another. 
Let your journeys outside the monastery be infrequent, so that 
you may always be able to cultivate and water the seed of the 
word which you have scattered. You must not, because of 
your continual running about, seem like a visitor in your own 
monastery; rather, your long staying and scrupulous serious- 
ness must show you to be a dweller within it, a member of the 
household. Let the preacher be vouched for by his fasting and 
abstinence; the gullet of the banqueter must not assail the 
statements of the speaker. It is beyond question that the hand 
which carries food and drink to the mouth in moderation is a 
better teacher of sobriety than the tongue of the glutton is 
when it speaks. Besides, it is a forceful method of preaching, 
and one most effective in the souls of one's disciples, to urge 
others to eat but to keep a rigorous fast oneself while doing so. 
Stretch the rod over those who offend in such a way that 
you keep the impulses of your own anger in strict restraint. 
Meanwhile, when you utter threats, when you strike the 
guilty with terror, turn your eyes upon yourself, consider the 
measure of human weakness, and carefully weigh the fact 
that you yourself could well be reproved, if anyone had the 
authority to do so; and do not be surprised if one of those 
subject to you chances to offend by not fulfilling all that you 
have commanded, when the weakness of human nature is such 
that the members of your own body cannot be completely 
subject to you in all things. Let me give you proof of what I 
say. Command your eyes not to be surprised by sloth, and 
your heart not to allow entrance to fantastic thoughts; declare 
chastity to the organs of reproduction, that they may not be 
roused by incentives of pleasure; preach temperance to the 
palate, so that it does not long for more delicious food; finally, 
command your whole body not to lay itself open to the on- 
slaughts of disease. And when you have clearly proved that 
they demand your trust, but cannot altogether deserve it, do 
not be surprised that you are unable to discern a perfect 
obedience in all things in those who differ from you in charac- 
ter and behaviour. Certainly, if you consider all this intelli- 



gently, you will bear the aberrations of brotherly frailty with 

If the patrimony of your house is enlarged, if you have an 
abundance of goods, if the house of God is enriched, do not 
claim it as a result of your own merits or endeavour, but 
ascribe it to Divine aid. For this reason, call to mind the time 
before you held office, and remember that none of these things 
came to you then. It is obvious that they were given not to 
you but to the Church of Christ, and that you would not have 
obtained them without Him. 

Do not shudder at the idea of dining at the monastic table, 
nor take pleasure in private banquets; you must not think that 
those who share with you the common table of the altar are 
unfit to partake of bodily nourishment with you. Do not, 
therefore, let your absence give rise to the suspicion that you 
are dining privately, for this will mean that your good name 
will be troubled by pestilential murmurers and detractors. Nor 
should you care much about the quality of what is going to fill 
the privy; you should rather concern yourself with those 
things through which the love of the brethren may be united 
in Christ by the bonds of mutual charity. 

Do not squander the goods of the monastery, nor seek to 
win general popularity for yourself at the expense of the com- 
mon good. For if we believe that those who enrich churches 
gain remission of their sins, we must also certainly hold that 
those who impoverish and destroy them are bound by the 
heavy chains of sacrilege; and so the latter are liable to punish- 
ment for their sins in the same way that the others are found to 
have been absolved from the bonds of sin. Beware when you 
are surrounded by the obsequiousness of kinsmen, when you 
are sweetly smeared with the words of yes-men, lest this lord- 
ship and deep reverence should be so flattering to your soul 
that evilly-alluring thoughts will convince you that you are in 
fact worthy of all this (which God forbid). The happier a 
steward is in the size of what is committed to his care, the 
more wretched will he be when he has to render an account; 
the amount which he will owe when he comes to render 



account will be proportional to the pleasure he took in the 
large amount that was committed to him. What St. Benedict 
says must inspire great fear: 'The abbot must give an account 
of all the souls committed to his charge, as well as of his own 
soul/ 1 And so let us consider how right it is that he who in the 
dreadful judgement will come to his own examination bur- 
dened with the reckonings of others should now be overawed 
by fear. But it is the nature of teachers to teach rather than to 
learn, so let these few words suffice; for those who are ap- 
pointed to preach their own sermons may well weary of 
listening to mine. 


The prior of the monastery will carry out the duties of his 
priorship properly if he does not dispute the wishes of the 
abbot, and if he strengthens the souls of the brethren, as far 
as he is able, in a sincere love of the same abbot. Joseph, when 
he was overseer of his master's household, was unwilling to 
the last to attract to himself the desire of his master's wife, but 
taught her that she should remain steadfast in the love of her 
own husband. And that noble servant of Abraham, a mighty 
man, and of a deep humanity, counted all his service as 
nothing, that he might provide a wife for his lord in good 
faith; he forgot all his toil and his mighty journey; he con- 
cerned himself with everything that cropped up in the matter 
that he might fight on behalf of his lord alone. Just as the abbot 
must stir up his sons to the love of Christ by everything that 
he does, so the prior should endeavour to foster in the brethren 
a united love of their abbot, for fear that any jealousy should 
emerge (which God forbid). And so he must not be over- 
gentle with the faults of offenders in order to make the abbot 
seem cruel, but in the latter's absence the prior must so reprove 
all wrongdoing that the abbot on his return may rest in the 
joy of brethren who are filled with spiritual delight as if he 
were in the heart of a peaceful harbour. 

1 R. S. B. c, 2. 



He must therefore maintain a strict severity in correcting 
transgressors, nor must he allow the accustomed discipline of 
the rule to grow lukewarm in his house. He must be inflexible 
in his justice, so that the abbot may appear tender in his 
clemency. He must be insistent in his demands, so that the 
abbot may have the opportunity of making concessions out of 
fatherly love. Moses, the faithful servant, brought to us the 
commandments of naked justice; Christ, our truly loving Lord, 
tempered the harsh severity of the Law. But Aaron, who 
showed a sinful people that he was weak and pliant, joined 
with them in making idols for sacrilegious rites. The prior is 
like the veil which was hung before the ark of the covenant; 
he shields the abbot from all outward affairs. He meets with all 
the dust which rises from the highway of the world, to which 
he is continually exposed; the abbot, like the ark of the Lord, 
abides in the purity of his splendour. The prior is like Aaron 
in that he is the abbot's mouthpiece and speaks to the people; 
the abbot, like Moses, delights in divine conversations in all 
those things which relate to God. And so both of them to- 
gether, joining together in unity of spirit, will, if it is possible, 
nourish for God such children that no posterity can succeed 
them in their right to enter into their heavenly inheritance. 


The bell-ringer must realize that no one in the monastery 
should avoid forgetfulness more surely than he. If any hour of 
the office is not said at the proper time, either because it is too 
early or because it is too late, it is clear that the whole order 
of the hours to come will be upset. Because of this, he must 
not waste time in chatting, or holding long conversations with 
other people, nor must he ask questions about what is going 
on in the world. He must always pay the greatest attention to 
the charge committed to him, being watchful and careful, 
knowing that the turning globe does not pause in its course, 
and always considering the passage of the stars and the running 
out of fleeting time. And let him acquire the habit of reciting 



the Psalter, if he wishes to have a daily method of telling the 
time; so that when he cannot see the brightness of the sun or 
the movement of the stars because of thick cloud, the number 
of psalms which he has got through will act as a sort of clock, 
enabling him to judge the time. It is certain that the custom of 
congregating in the church when bells are rung comes from a 
mystical tradition of the Old Law, for the Lord commanded 
Moses: 'Make thee two trumpets of silver that thou mayest use 
them for the calling of the assembly and for the journeying of 
the camps; and when they shall blow with them, all the 
assembly shall assemble themselves to thee at the door of the 
tabernacle of the congregation/ 1 Just as the people of Israel 
flocked to the tabernacle at the sound of the trumpets, so today 
the faithful hasten to the church when they hear the clamour 
of the bells. 

Nor is there any disharmony in the fact that the trumpets 
are said to have been used for shifting camp, since camps are 
part of the preparation for battle. A little farther on, the text 
says: 'And if ye go to war in your land against the enemy that 
oppf esseth you, then ye shall blow an alarm with the trumpets; 
and ye shall be remembered before the Lord your God, and ye 
shall be saved from your enemies.' 2 We march out to battle 
like a camp when we hasten to church to pray or sing the 
Office, if I may put it so. For there the princes of darkness 
wage deadly war against us, so that by distracting our minds 
with fantastic thoughts they may turn them from the words 
which our lips are uttering. And indeed what a splendid army 
it is, especially at night, when the brethren, aroused as if by 
the sound of the trumpet, form a wedge and marching like an 
ordered battle-column come forth inspired and ready for action 
in battle on the Lord's behalf. The wing of boys marches in 
front, followed by the band of the company of young men; 
last of all, following in their footsteps come the mature men, 
our chief strength in battle, who guard the rear of the whole 
army, lest any should fall or the hidden enemy attack. 

A lantern is borne in the first rank of the army as a symbol 

1 Num. x, 2-3. a Ibid., 9. 



of the column of fire which went before the people of Israel in 
the desert. For indeed, just as the companies of Christ go forth 
to eat the heavenly manna, so did the legions of die true 
Israelites hasten to gain the land flowing with milk and honey. 
They go forth with sounding trumpets to the tabernacle of the 
Covenant to eat the banquet of the Heavenly Word, to offer to 
God the sacrifice of praise, and to fulfil the promises of good- 
will. That is why the Scriptures go on to say: Also in the day 
of your gladness, and in your solemn days and in the beginning 
of your months, ye shall blow with the trumpets over your 
burnt-offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace-offerings; 
that they may be to you for a memorial of your God/ 1 From 
these and similar words let the bell-ringer take careful note as 
to how watchful and careful it behoves him to be in the office 
which has been assigned to him; lest through his carelessness 
he should bring disorder to so great a work and to the rules of 
his order. 


The refectory reader must carefully consider how clearly and 
plainly and intelligibly he ought to read; for he provides the 
food of the soul at the same time as the brethren are receiving 
refreshment for the body. Others offer bodily food, which will 
soon be turned into rottenness; he gives the word of God, 
which will not pass away even though heaven and earth should 
pass away. He must therefore read in such a way that while the 
flesh is fed with its gifts the soul may be nourished with 
heavenly banquets. 

Reading is for the benefit of the hearer rather than of the 
reader; so the reader must not strive to make others talk of his 
own merits; rather, he must concern himself with the edifica- 
tion of others. He must not heed what is said about the reader, 
but what may be understood of the reading. Those who eat 
must be reminded that their meal should be so ruled by tem- 
perance that the noise of grinding jaws does not block up the 
channels to the ears. The hand must be restrained, and act as 

1 Num. x, 10. 



mediator between mouth and table, and hold itself in check 
with the bridle of severity, so that the starving soul is not 
forced to abstain from divine nourishment while the throat is 
fed with earthly food. 


The cellarer, who has been appointed as a sort of father to 
the monastery, must perform the task committed to him with 
such skill in economic management that he carefully checks 
his openhandedness, and at the same time avoids being close- 
fisted; he must be frugal in generosity and generous in frugal- 
ity. Above all, he must beware lest he mistake niggardliness for 
frugality and prodigality for generosity. For vice often cloaks 
itself under the appearance of virtue, and the more any evil has 
the appearance of good, the more difficult it is to reform. The 
good administrator will minister to the needs of the body in 
such a way that he also shows concern for the health of the 
soul; by his frugality he will encourage temperance, while by 
his generosity he will ensure that the evil of murmuring does 
not arise. For often, as a most wise man has said, liberality 
destroys liberality; that is to say, goods are carelessly lavished 
on those who have no need of them, so that afterwards there 
is nothing left to give to those who, being truly in need, ought 
to be supplied. 

He must therefore refuse to give more than is necessary to 
our own brethren, in order that he may have something left 
over from which to give alms to those not of our household. 
Nehemiah, so that he might receive at his own table those that 
came to him from the heathen that were about him, would 
have thought it shame to spare his flocks; and he ordered the 
demands upon his own income in such a way that he could 
perform works of charity to strangers. Tobias, when he was so 
poor that his wife had to work as a weaver, divided the little 
that he had so that he might give some comfort to his fellow- 
captives. And so, himself a pilgrim, he did not allow loving- 
kindness to be a stranger to him, and although poor in pos- 



sessions, he did not lack the riches of a splendid charity. When 
Abigail carried away part of a splendid banquet she turned the 
sword of David, hastening to avenge an insult, away from the 
throat of her husband; and so she did well to take food from 
the mouths of her own household, so that by giving it to 
strangers she might save their lives. Paul commands that on 
the first day of each week each man should set something aside, 
so that by the kindness of the Corinthians it may be sent to the 
needy saints at Jerusalem. We must, therefore, supply the 
brethren with the daily necessities of life in such a way that 
we remember, if our goods are sufficient, to succour strangers 
in their need. The cellarer must be the steward of the Church, 
not a distinguisher of persons but one who considers weak- 
nesses; not a seeker after favour but a supporter of others in 
their helplessness; he must make just distributions of fair por- 
tions to the needy, whom a diversity of frailty distinguishes, 
having a regard for the proper stewardship of his office. In 
this way, there will be no breeding-ground for scandal; that is, 
if he bestows on each man what he needs and not what he 


And now, since we are embracing the whole body of this 
holy monastery in the outstretched arms of brotherly love, we 
have decided to make a distinction between the different age- 
groups, and to give to each such advice as seems most fitting. 
I will begin with those who are just starting out: you must 
learn, who are yet boys, that you are at the pliant age; you are 
still delicate because of the frailty of your bodies, and also may 
be bent by different sorts of behaviour. The farther you are 
from being fully-grown branches, as Pythagoras says, the 
easier it is either to guide you to the right or to deflect you 
down the left-hand slope. But if the clay suffers any injury in 
the potter's hands, this, if it is not corrected at once, will after- 
wards become as hard as stone, nor can it be remedied. A twig 
springing straight from the root which becomes bent for any 
reason will never be made straight again if it remains bent for 



any length of time, and since it is obviously useless as a spear- 
shaft will be used as food for the greedy flames. 

And so beware, lest any vice should increase with the 
growth of your body, lest the knots of any perversity should 
harden within you; rather, be vessels of honour and not of 
reproach, ready for any good work in the house of the Lord. 
If you desire to shine with the uprightness of manhood, and to 
abound in virtue without wearying yourselves with labour 
(which is not possible for others), take up at once the weapons 
of continence, and fight with all your strength against the 
violent temptations of the flesh. At this, the very beginning ^of 
your apprenticeship, assure yourselves of certain victory with 
God on your side; boldly wage implacable war on the hostile 
spirits, carrying before you the standard of the Cross. Tread 
your pride underfoot, crush envy, curb your tongue with a 
strict silence, let meditation on the Scriptures quench the 
desires of the palate; your tongue must not utter detraction, 
nor give countenance to it by listening to it. Solomon says: 
"Meddle not with detractors; for their calamity shall arise sud- 
denly, and who knoweth the ruin of them both?' 1 The ruin, 
that is to say, of him who detracts, and of him who listens to 
the detractor. It is not, however, detraction to reveal a brother's 
fault to him whose duty it is to correct it. 

It is easy to see that this is particularly true of boys, since 
they cannot be suspected of the desire to harm or to denounce. 
Joseph in his father's presence accused his brethren of great 
wickedness; yet although this meant that he incurred their 
hatred, the final consequence was that he gained lordship over 
them. Jonathan and Ahimaaz, hidden near a well in En-Rogel, 
sent a messenger to King David, telling him to flee swiftly 
from Absalom; and so Zadok and Abiathar did through their 
sons what they could not do themselves. Often the young 
men will uncover a fault which the older and wiser can then 
reform for the good of all. Do not, however, now that you are 
growing up, wrongly debate the merits of your superiors; do 
not concern yourselves with the path which they follow, but 

1 Prov. xxir, 21-22, 


remember whose authority they represent, and be humbly 
subject to them in Christ. For, as St. Paul says: 'We have had 
fathers of our flesh who corrected us, and we gave them 
reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection to the 
fathers of the spirit, and live P' 1 Samuel learned from Heli what 
to reply to the Lord when He called him; and because he was 
subject in all humility to the wicked priest, he heard the words 
of divine revelation. When a spirit troubled proud Saul, 
David did not refuse to serve him by playing his harp. 2 

In order that you may be able to quench the flames of desire, 
shun the enticements of the palate which kindle those flames 
and are like oakum, naphtha, pitch and fire-darts. For that 
fourth one who appeared among the young men in the fiery 
furnace will bring to you the consolation of His spirit, like a 
rain-bearing wind. And so in all things you must lay aside the 
playthings of childhood, and dedicate to the Lord the begin- 
ning of your noviciate through the native qualities of your 
noble state. Follow Him as a leader among the struggles 
against temptation; seek Him as your protector in the peaceful 
days of good fortune. Surrounded, therefore, by the invincible 
spears of the virtues, cry together to Christ your champion; 
Tlead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me: fight 
against them that fight against me. Take hold of shield and 
buckler, and stand up for mine help/ 3 When you are brought 
to perfect manhood, to the measure of the stature of His ful- 
ness, He will give you the victory by His own strength. He 
will cause you to place your triumphant feet on the necks of 
your enemies. I would advise you also to read the letter which 
I sent to my kinsman Marinus. 


As for you young men, you growing youths, you have the 

more need of the mighty aid of exhortation, since you endure 

harsher struggles with the lusts of the flesh. For it is upon you 

that all the forces of the enemy charge in direct assault, upon 

1 Heb. xii, 9. a i Sam, xvi. 3 Ps. xxxv, 1-2. 



you that the chief weight of the war presses. You are assailed 
by thick showers of all kinds of darts; the wicked spirits are 
gathered against you with all the vices of the flesh, and they 
hurl down violent storms upon you. Wars rage in your very 
bones, and the furnace of your body belches forth balls of fire 
like restless Vesuvius or fiery Etna. Because of this, it is neces- 
sary that the more bitterly your self-mastery is assailed, the 
more strongly you must persevere. Those who are struck by 
javelins while they brandish their own spears, and who are 
wounded when they desire to wound others will be in serious 
difficulties. For we must either put our enemies to flight or 
flee ourselves; either turn our backs or drive our enemies 
before us. In this battle we must either conquer or be over- 
thrown; he who does not win a glorious victory will suffer a 
shameful defeat. There is always the danger that when the 
enemy army is surrounded, it will be strengthened by a troop 
of rebellious citizens, or that while the army is drawn up to 
join in battle the entrance to the camp will be opened up by 
treacherous inhabitants. For the vices which dwell within us 
join with our tempters in tempting us, and increase the power 
of the wicked demons. 

Wherefore, dearly beloved, take up the weapons of temper- 
ance, humility, patience, obedience, chastity, charity and all the 
other virtues and fight, not for towns and fields, not for sons 
or wives, but for your very souls, which are more important 
than any love or friendship. Above all, so that your new man- 
hood may be strengthened, you must fast and pray; so that 
fasting may subdue the vigour of the flesh and prayer raise 
your soul up to God. But do not forget the fact that those who 
fast indiscriminately fail to gather the fruit of their fasting; 
whatever they abstain from on one day, they eat on another, 
satisfying their hunger as they please. And so it comes about 
that the day of fasting wages war against the next day, and 
before today's meals have been digested, our empty stomachs 
are eating the banquet prepared for tomorrow; and when we 
long for something different from and richer than the common 
fare, all the remedies of the apothecary will need to be em- 



ployed, not without inconvenience to the servants. He may 
therefore be said to fast well who is content with the common 
fare on the days when he eats; for if he eats the same food as 
those who eat daily, he will not exceed the measure of what 
they eat. Neither, however, must you, in making too much of 
fasting, forsake obedience, which is the golden highway to 

Now I will tell you something which I did not hear at 
second hand, but saw with my own eyes. There was a certain 
monk at Pomposa named Raimbald, the brother of that most 
venerable Peter who is now abbot of Vincentia. He was in the 
habit of subduing his young body with frequent fasts, and at 
the very beginning showed signs in many ways of his truly 
remarkable gifts. He was given the task of ministering to a 
certain German anchorite who had had his eyes put out and 
his right hand cut off, and lived a laborious life near the 
church. Now it was a rule of the monastery that no cloister- 
monk should speak when he was outside the house. On one 
occasion when Raimbald complained bitterly in chapter that he 
could not possibly instruct inexperienced boys to wash the 
clothes of the servant of God or tell them what food to prepare 
for him by means of signs, declaring and maintaining that un- 
less he broke silence he could hardly obey his orders, that 
holy man Abbot Guido vehemently opposed him, refusing to 
absolve him from the duty of silence, and remained unmoved 
in the judgment he had already given; at last, after a good deal 
of talk, it came to this, that Raimbald should be ordered to 
relinquish this task and to keep quiet. But how swift is the 
sternness of divine retribution! Before half a day had elapsed 
Raimbald declared in tears that he had been struck in the 
throat with dreadful agony by a hand from above. What then? 
If I am not mistaken, he died three days afterwards, having 
made satisfaction and received the blessing of his holy father. 

We have told you this about one of our own number, dearly 
beloved, that you may remember that holy obedience must 
never be neglected for the sake of any good work or act of 
devotion. Be very careful also in the battle against your 



temptations, always -watchful, always wary, so that the time of 
temptation may pass, and you may not accomplish in action 
what was suggested to you in thought. For often in worldly 
battles that may occur in an instant which no length of time, 
however great, can afterwards hope to alter. On the other 
hand, he who is on his guard against a single wounding stroke 
may in that brief moment win greater length of life. You know 
what I am talking about: often a man will slip suddenly into 
the whirlpool of a sin which he must of necessity weep for as 
long as he lives. Therefore in every moment of temptation we 
must watch with great shrewdness, for fear that that tempta- 
tion should achieve its end; but if a wicked deed is put off for a 
short space of time, we may escape it altogether; in avoiding the 
sudden blow, we enable ourselves afterwards to live a long life 
in safety. 


Those who are but newly come to the order of religion 
must be reminded that they should first of all take up the 
struggle against greed; so that when the belly is forced to 
observe the laws of temperance the fires of lust will as a result 
be checked even in those parts which lie beneath the belly. The 
tongue must be restrained from idle chatter, and indeed from 
too much talking of any kind with the brethren or anyone else; 
so that the less it has been worn out by the interchanges and 
circumlocutions of empty wordiness, the more free it may be 
to occupy itself with prayer and the praise of God. Let your 
eye wear out the floor with its ceaseless looking, and your soul 
be raised on the scaffold of burning desire to heaven. Let each 
substance consider its origin, so that while the flesh is con- 
vinced that it is itself no more than the dust which it beholds, 
the soul, raised up to that which it has lost, may long for it 
with eager and unfailing desire. Let your poverty and need 
cause you to favour rough and tagged clothing; in the cold of 
winter wear poor and despised garments. Long-deferred and 
quickly-descending sleep will soften your hard bed. The soft- 



ness of his couch means little to the man who is thinking only 
of the period of peace which is granted to him; nor does he 
who desires, like Macarius, to spend watchful nights intent in 
prayer long, like Sardanapalus, to float on a bed of feathers. 
Keep away from public places; flee from the sight of men. 
Search for unfrequented places, go into hidden and remote 
retreats. For secret prayers storm heaven, and carry off forgive- 
ness when they are poured forth often in the shadows by the 
light of heaven. 

Do not reply to offered insults by being insulting in your 
turn; but let the moderation of your reply sweeten the bitter- 
ness of your taunter; and if you cannot easily do this, let your 
angry tongue be curbed by a strict silence, for fear a dangerous 
quarrel should arise. A ship under full sail is often sunk by the 
raging winds; but if her sail-yard is lowered, all the force of 
the gale batters her in vain. And so the shafts of the reviler 
will not find their mark if the soul of the reviled abases itself 
in humility. The novice must often attempt great things, so 
that lesser ones may be made easy by comparison. 

What I am saying at such length is this: Drink muddy or 
lukewarm water often so that, spurning the desire for wine, 
you may think that clear cold water is enough for you. Often 
serve a bran-loaf, so that you may have an appetite for ordinary 
bread, and not look for loaves made with fine wheaten flour. 
A man who has lain on a couch of cushions will not be content 
with a patchwork quilt; but he will be satisfied with a litter of 
straw in any place if he has been wearing out the bare floor 
with his flanks. He who is made sick by oil after he has eaten 
meat should live on salt vegetables for some time, so that his 
throat may know the sweetness of a sober drink. He who takes 
pleasure in an unaccustomed journey on horseback should con- 
fine himself within the narrow walls of his cell, and then the 
cloisters of the monastery will seem like a market-place to him. 
A man may, if he is used to sable and ermine, scorn sheep's 
wool; but if he is clothed in rags, it is a matter of indifference 
to him whether he be kept warm by exotic or homely skins. 
Moses fasted on the mountain for twice forty days from all 



food and drink, so that he might be content with manna alone, 
and not desire to sit by the fleshpots with the other Israelites. 
The sons of the prophets did not refuse to cut up bitter apples 
for their pot, so that they might not scorn any vegetable. When 
Daniel was forced to live among the fierce and gaping jaws of 
the lions, he learned never to fear again the wiles of wicked 
men. When Nebuchadnezzar suffered the senselessness of a 
brute beast, when he wandered through thick woods and 
forest pastures like a wild animal, he was changed so that he 
should not take pride in the dignity of his royal power. When 
David was cast down from the glory of his royal throne by his 
own son, he learned not to avenge himself on Shimei the 
stranger. We must certainly believe that after Isaiah had gone 
naked and barefoot for three years, he no longer felt the need 
for soft or superfluous garments. 

Whoever wishes, therefore, to make any task or labour easy 
for himself must go forth boldly and try a higher and more 
difficult thing; so that harshness may lighten harshness, and 
nettles may be made bearable, so to speak, in comparison with 
rough and thorny brambles. I do not wish to imply that you 
should not begin with the lesser things; what I mean is that 
when you attempt more difficult things, these lesser ones will 
be made light by comparison. The novice must be careful 
about this, when in striving after things hard to attain he enters 
the narrow way; when he begins to be tried beyond his 
strength he should return at once to easier ways. If a needle is 
driven violently into a hard substance, it will break unless it is 
drawn out carefully; but if a shoemaker thrusts it in and out 
with his cobbler's skill, it will pierce easily through any solid 
substance which it encounters. The same is true of us at the 
beginning of our new way of life: if we strive for a time and 
then relax, if we alternate between pressing forward through 
harsh and difficult ways and resting by sparing ourselves, we 
will soon find that a road will open which will pass easily 
through all obstacles. 




I must not overlook you holy old men, who have the mote 
need of caution in battle in that the end of your striving is 
near at hand. For it follows that if you should be defeated now, 
you will be unable to regain the glory of your lost victory. 
Now, therefore, the fervent must be kindled to mighty deeds; 
the old man must take to himself the strength of youth in 
order to vanquish the barbarous vices. Now indeed your feet 
are on the threshold of the city; now you are drawing near, 
through the central gates, to the repose of a blessed peace. 

Renounce idleness then, and lay aside sloth; do not let the 
remembrance of the long labours you have accomplished hold 
you back, when the reward offered draws you on to undergo 
new hardships which lie before your eyes. The deeper a 
searcher for gold has dug into the vein in the earth, the more 
eagerly and firmly does he gird himself up in order to finish 
the rest of his work. The work he has done does not drain his 
strength as much as the hope of the treasure which is coming 
nearer and nearer impels him to his endeavours in digging up 
the soil. He who is hastening to a wedding-feast as a grooms- 
man has no reason to long for an early breakfast beforehand. 
For behold! the beeves and fadings of the gospel are killed., and 
all things are ready. The voice of the herald is heard: c Come to 
the wedding.' Why should anyone want to anticipate his 
pleasures who is soon going to feast on wedding dishes ? Why 
should he want to belch before he has sat down ? Why should 
he fill himself with swine's husks who is hastening towards the 
food of angels ? Why should he not hold back from a starved 
satiety of his pleasures now, when the highest and most perfect 
happiness of heavenly glory awaits him? Why should he not 
now curb his tongue and refrain from gossip and idle talk who 
is looking forward to an eternal and most intimate contem- 
plation of the very Word by whom all things were made? 
Why should he not for the sake of austerity avoid the company 
of his fellows, when he is moving towards the court of the 
everlasting emperor and the heavenly senators ? Why should 

i 129 


he shudder at being covered with rough garments, who is to 
be clothed in the robe of immortality? 

And so do not be ashamed to abstain from all the pleasures 
of the world for the sake of abounding in the riches of the 
delights of heaven; we do this so that our souls may not cleave 
to created things but may long even more for the embrace of 
the Creator. For he who approaches the threshold of the royal 
palace after a long journey would be considered insane if he 
was so concerned with the buildings that he did not yearn to 
see the king's face. Do not let the weakness of an exhausted 
body destroy your hope of mighty deeds; for if you have the 
Spirit in your heart he will give you inward strength and 
power. Thus Caleb, because he had zealously kept the Lord's 
commandments said, still vigorous with the strength of his 
youth: 'I am this day four score and five years old. As yet I am 
as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as 
my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, 
both to go out and to come in.' 1 That is to say, both in oppos- 
ing vice and in the increasing of good works in the paths of 
holiness. And we read in Deuteronomy: "Moses was an 
hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not 
dim, nor his natural force abated.' 2 And Moses himself said in 
blessing Asher: 'Thy shoes shall be iron and brass: and as thy 
days, so shall thy strength be/ 3 

And so, dearly beloved, do not take advantage of the con- 
cessions made to you by laying down the weapons of fasting 
and vigils as if your vices were dead; do not indulge in enticing 
pleasures as if you were already safe, while you are still running 
in the contest. For old men are used to fasting, and although 
their frailty longs for food, yet the habitual inclination of their 
nature is in harmony with fasting and temperance. Barzillai 
the Gileadite was invited to a feast: 'Come/ said King David, 
'and I will feed thee with me in Jerusalem. 3 But he pleaded the 
dullness of age, and excused himself from the delights of the 
royal banquet: 'Can I distinguish between sweet and bitter? 
Can thy servant taste what I eat or what I drink? Can I hear 

1 Joshua xiv, lo-xi. 2 Deut. xxxiv, 7. 8 Ibid., xxxili, 25. 



any more the voice of singing men and singing women?* 1 
From this we can see how peaceful and of what excellent morals 
that old man was. For why should he not, if necessary, be con- 
tent with poverty in familiar things who scorns the dishes of 
the king's table to which he was invited ? Why should he take 
pleasure in producing idle or laughter-provoking words whose 
chaste ears disdain to listen to the songs of strangers ? How 
could a man who found no pleasure even there where psalms 
were sometimes sung find any peace where the playing and 
dancing of actors resounds ? 

I must not forget to tell you that there are some old men 
who even after they have become monks are so busy with 
ancient lamentation that they harm themselves and seem crazy 
to their hearers. Sometimes they piece together the fragments 
of past events; sometimes they talk of the decrees of dead 
kings or their conquests, and they spend the whole day in the 
vain recital of old wives' tales. So it happens that the tongue 
which God gave them, instead of being employed in salutary 
prayer, makes itself ridiculous by the repetition of idle and 
superstitious stories; while they appease the hunger of their 
tongues with noxious feasts of story-telling, they fail to 
restrain their bellies under the proper control of temperance, 
for wordiness is ever the enemy of fasting. 

There is an old monk of ours in the monastery of Sitria, 
named Mainard; when he was still a soldier and I was urging 
him to become a monk he, being as yet talkative and snappish, 
boldly gave me a quarrelsome answer: 'Look/ he said, *I can 
scarcely exist even now, when the daily assiduity of my 
serving-maids cherishes me and ministers to me in all things; 
how, then, should I be able to take up the way of a religious 
rule who as it is can scarcely stay on my feet even without the 
burden of any discipline?' A short time after, however, he 
became a monk, by whose persuasion I do not know; and old 
and ill as he was, he embarked on his new life with such fervour 
that the old and mature and wise men regarded him as a 
miracle, while the deceitful and wanton young men of the 

1 2 Sam. xix, 35. 



monastery held him in scorn. They with all their tearing at him 
with evil speaking and gnawing at him with biting words 
could not so turn him away from the austere life he had deter- 
mined upon that he failed to recite the Psalter four times daily, 
and likewise to fast from all food and drink four days in the 
week, summer and winter alike. And he retained another of his 
earlier customs: each month was so disposed that in the first 
week he ate nothing at all except on the Lord's Day and on 
Thursday. Unless I am mistaken, he has now been wearing the 
habit of holy religion for twelve years, and has spent all that 
time in the monastery. 

There is also another of our brethren, Leo of Prezia, who is 
enclosed within the confines of a cell; we have mentioned him 
briefly in some of our other writings. He is so old that he has 
seen the deaths of those who were born after him and is re- 
garded as an old man by those who have grown old in his life- 
time. Despite the sickness of so exhausted and trembling a 
body, he never drinks wine except on two or at the most three 
great feast-days in the year. He never eats before the ninth 
hour except on the Lord's Day; on two days of the week (this 
is when he is living less strictly) he will not eat more than one 
dish, He arranges the order of his prayers in this way: every 
day, both in summer and in winter, he recites the Psalter with 
its canticles and litanies before the night office of the Church, 
between the first light of dawn and the sixth hour he sings the 
Psalter with nine lessons for the departed; finally, towards 
evening he closes the day with a third recitation of the Psalter 
and the Gloria. 

Moreover, he has this gift, which I have never found in any 
other man, however perfect; that when he is reciting the 
psalms no other thought intrudes; so great is the purity of his 
heart that he does not have to trouble to resist distraction; his 
mind never thinks of anything which it not in harmony with 
the psalms his lips are reciting. And it is very remarkable 
that his eyes are never weighed down with the weariness 
of spkitual sloth. I must add that although he cannot see 
men's faces, because of the blindness of old age, yet he can 



see and read letters, and reads through the Psalter twice daily. 

Another astonishing thing is that when he is in his cell, 
where the light is dim, he can read every letter that is written; 
when he comes outside where it is easier to see, he cannot 
recognize their outlines. This he has often admitted to me after 
I had carefully questioned him. He does not suffer from the 
strivings of the flesh, nor does he need to labour against any 
distraction of the mind, even for a moment. Crucified as he is 
to this world, he scarcely perceives any human thing; all un- 
leavened and wholly sincere, he lives, I declare, the life of an 

See, dearly beloved, I have given you two examples of the 
many at hand, one from the cenobitic and the other from the 
solitary life. From them you may clearly learn that where the 
fire of a fervent spirit has been kindled, the desire for good 
works does not grow dim in our old age; but in the same way 
that a lively spirit sends forth the serpent who is borne upon 
his ribs, not his feet, to run, so the love of God urges our aged 
limbs onwards through the desire for spiritual combat. For 
we have not yet a continuing city, but we seek one to come, 1 
and so we must not hope for rest in any period of our life here: 
on the high seas of this world the just must struggle on where 
the impious may take their rest. This difference is symbolized 
by the raven and the dove which were sent forth from the ark; 
the raven perched on drowned bodies, and did not return to 
the safety of the ark; but the dove returned, for she found no 
place where her foot could rest. Here indeed where wicked 
men satisfy themselves with the pleasures of the flesh, holy 
men can nowhere find a place of rest for their desire. This is 
why he who is discovered to have sinned must, according to 
the law, receive forty stripes. For the number forty mystically 
contains that entire period of time during which the Church, 
scattered throughout the four quarters of the world, lived 
under the law of the Decalogue. We sinners receive forty 
stripes if while we are in this life we are chastised by the rod 
of penitence. Now every sinner, be he old or young, must be 

1 Heb. xiil, 14. 



bruised in this world so that he may be found cleansed from 
guilt in the day of judgement; for there no chastisement can 
afflict those who throughout their life in the world, whatever 
their age or rank, were stricken by the discipline of perfect 


But now, dearly-beloved brethren, I speak to every one of 
you; I entreat you by the name of Christ, in which every knee 
shall bow. Remain steadfast in brotherly love; unite together 
in the zeal of your mutual affection against the wiles of our 
ancient enemy. Let the whole structure of your holy way of 
life be raised on the foundations of charity; let the whole 
edifice which you are building from the living stones of virtue 
be cemented by the mortar of a genuine love. The voice of 
God commanded that the ark which was to hold eight souls 
during the deluge should be smeared with pitch within and 
without, so that she should be outwardly soothed by brotherly 
sweetness and inwardly united in the truth of mutual love. 
Whoever loves inwardly, but is outwardly at variance with his 
brethren because of the unsuitable harshness of his behaviour 
has the inner lining of pitch but not the outer. He on the other 
hand who to all outward appearances shows himself kindly 
and feigns friendship but does not possess the reality of friend- 
ship in his inmost heart is damnably full of holes inside, while 
outwardly he is united by the pretence of the pitch he has 
smeared. Neither of them shall be saved from shipwreck in the 
deluge, since neither is protected by a double lining of pitch 
as the Lord commanded. 

But he who is outwardly kindly and also keeps his inward 
love, who shows forth the fruit of kindliness as well as the 
branches of the word, and who sends down deep roots 
within, since he loves from the bottom of his heart, such a 
man is smeared with pitch both within and without, because 
he is joined to his neighbours by a double bond of charity. 
Now it was commanded in the first place that the ark should be 


made of smooth wood, and then that it should be smeared with 
pitch; we have already written above how you should smooth 
and polish your wood with the axe of penance and discipline; 
now in logical consequence we urge you to apply pitch to the 
finished structure. Indeed, when the manners of men are rough 
and harsh, it is useless to apply the bond of charity to them; 
for they soon spring apart from each other when they do not 
observe a balanced agreement of polite behaviour. 

You must therefore be smoothed by the discipline of 
spiritual labour and lined by the harmony of brotherly love. 
This union cannot be one of perfect agreement unless the ark 
is finished with a cubit; that is to say, unless one man is set 
over the rest as Christ's vicar. Unity brings about agreement 
among many men; it causes the wills of different men to be in 
accord in the bonds of charity and the unanimity of a common 

Therefore, dearly beloved, if you desire to be at one with 
each other in the love of Christ, be more intent in your obedi- 
ence in humbleness of heart to him who is set above you in 
Christ's place. Let there be no babbling Shem among you to 
reveal the shameful nakedness of his father and to talk of the 
abominableness of his father's sin. For in the midst of his 
brethren he was not numbered among the first-fruits of the 
Israelites, nor does he merit a place in the fullness of the 
nations. He who, despising the shepherd, seeks a hireling, who 
listens to the voices of strangers, who plays with the hammers 
of discord in the furnace of hatred and who divided the king- 
dom of Israel by sowing the seed of schism will have no place 
there. c We have no part in David,' he says, 'neither have we 
inheritance in the son of Jesse.' 1 As long as bees make honey 
together they remain under a single leader. And cranes, too, as 
long as they stay in line, and follow their leader never lose 
their orderly course. As soon as Rome was built, it became 
impossible for her to have two brothers as kings; and so the 
first walls of the rising structure were dedicated by fratricide. 
Jacob and Esau, when they were in the womb of Rebecca and 

1 2 Sam. xx, i. 



had no clothing but their mother's belly, fought as if they 
were already dressed in armour. 

Therefore the abbot must embrace and cherish the brethren 
as if they were his sons; in the same way, they must defer to 
him as if he were their father. You know what Cicero said: 
c Why should I treat you as an emperor when you do not treat 
me as a senator ? ?1 It is not that the more spiritual disciples are 
to be reproached with this; but we wish that the weaker 
brethren should be deprived of the opportunity to complain. 
And so he should love all the brethren, so that he may of 
right be loved by them in return. In this way therefore the 
shepherd and the sheep, the general and the soldiers, should 
be joined together in the single-minded practice of virtue; so 
that love, which is God, may rule them in undivided unity. 
See, beloved fathers and lords, I halt my pen in its course here 
for a purpose; for I know that what I have written is crude and 
clumsy. Nevertheless, that which is despised because it lacks 
the savour of salt may be commended for its brevity. And so 
I beseech you who sometime eat pulse after you have partaken 
of sea-delicacies that you will not scorn to glance at this scrap 
of parchment after reading the Sacred Writings. 
1 Cicero, De Orat. II, in poem. 

! 3 6 


Concerning True Happiness and Wisdom 

Peter the sinful monk sends greetings to the most prudent 
Boniface, in the indissoluble bond of their true love. 

I know very well, brother, that when this letter of mine 
falls into the hands of your worldly acquaintances, it will be 
scanned diligently to see whether it shines with eloquence; 
they will look to see whether it has been set forth in logical 
order, whether it gleams with the rich colours of rhetorical art, 
whether the opinions it contains are elaborated by arguments 
of dialectical subtlety; they will ask whether I use categorical 
or hypothetical syllogisms to construct my propositions by 
means of irrefutable adductions. 


But those who live by the spirit of God despise these 
ornamental frivolities as things utterly vain and worthless, and, 
as the Apostle says, count them but as dung. 1 And Paul bears 
witness that he himself did not speak to his disciples with 
wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of 
no effect. 2 What splendid and fruitful and honourable eloquence 
is that which, while it puffs up its proud author with the wind 
of vainglory, makes of no effect the cross of Christ, which is 
the world's salvation! 

And so, dearly beloved, do not look to find in my letters 

the enticing salt savour of mordant wit or the charm of smooth 

sophistication; be content with that sheeplike simplicity which 

1 Phil, iii, 8. a i Cor. i, 17. 



leads to God; and shun the cunning of the serpent, which 
instils a deadly poison. The Scriptures say: 'Now the serpent 
was more subtle than any beast of the field.' 1 And the Lord, 
who set an irreconcilable enmity between the seed of the 
woman and that of the serpent, called Himself a shepherd of 
sheep, not of serpents; He did not say c My serpents' but 'My 
sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and I give unto them 
eternal life.' 2 And yet the wise men of this world hold in scorn 
the simplicity of the servants of God. This is why Moses says: 
'The Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for 
that is an abomination unto the Egyptians.' 3 He gives the 
reason for this elsewhere, when he says 'Every shepherd is an 
abomination unto the Egyptians.' 4 And Truth Himself has said 
that the children of this world are wiser in their generation 
than the children of light. 5 That is why they love the cunning 
of the serpent and despise the purity and simplicity of the sheep. 
Yet the Lord said to Peter: c lf you love Me, feed My sheep, 
feed My lambs.' 6 Did He say Teed my foxlings, feed my 
dragons' ? 

Concerning all this I would say to you, dearly beloved, that 
you should beware of the dreadful subtlety of the serpent. 
Your holy wisdom should tread the middle way between folly 
and cunning. This is what James meant when he dismissed the 
wisdom of the serpent, saying: 'This wisdom descendeth not 
from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.* 7 A little later he 
tells us of that kind of wisdom which we should possess: 'The 
wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle 
and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without 
partiality and without hypocrisy.' 8 Paul also tells us not to 
think more highly than we ought, but to think soberly. 9 Isaias 
says of unbridled wisdom: 'The wisdom of their wise men shall 
perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be 
hid. Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from 
the Lord; whose works are in the dark and they say: Who 

1 Gen. iii, i. 2 John x, 27-28. 3 Gen. xliii, 32. 

4 Gen. xlvi, 34. 5 Luke xvi, 8. 6 John xxi, 15-18. 

7 Jas. Hi, 15. 8 Ibid., 17. 9 Rom. xii, 3. 



seeth us, and who knoweth us ?* The prophet mocks at such 
wisdom: 'Where Is the scribe? Where is the lawyer? Where is 
the teacher of the children ? You shall not see an unwise people, 
a people of deep speech, so that you cannot understand the 
discourse of their tongue, in which there is no wisdom/ 1 


The Apostle distinguishes clearly the great difference be- 
tween worldly prudence and spiritual wisdom in another place, 
when he says: Tor after that in the wisdom of God the world 
by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness 
of preaching to save them that believe/ 2 And again: 'The 
carnal mind is the enemy of God; for it is not subject to the 
law of God, neither indeed can be/ 3 This is why as we are 
told in the book of Genesis, the five kings who did not wish 
to submit to Chedorlaomor were overcome by four kings. 
This took place in the vale of Siddim, which is now the salt 
sea. The four kings represent those four virtues which Holy 
Scripture calls the principal virtues; the five kings symbolize 
the senses of the body, and thereby outward knowledge. And 
just as the former, those virtues which I have mentioned, spring 
from their mother-source, the fountain-head of reason, so the 
latter remain in the valley of salt which is the vanity of earthly 
wisdom, where they are overthrown by their enemies; for it is 
fitting that in our souls the wisdom of the spirit should have 
the victory and the cunning of fleshly knowledge should perish. 
We read of David that 'he gat himself a name when he returned 
from smiting of the Syrians in the valley of salt, twelve 
thousand being slain/ 4 And Christ, our true David, mighty in 
strength and splendid to behold, scattered twelve thousand 
men in the valley of salt, for through His apostles He triumphed 
over the salt, nay, the false witness of this world. He had twelve 
warriors for his spiritual battle, and through each of them 
must have slain a thousand men when he converted the fool- 

1 Isa. xxxiii, 18-19. 2 * Cor. i s 21. 

8 Rom. viii, 7. 4 i Sam. vili, 13. 



ishly wise from the folly of their vain knowledge. One of these 
warriors said to the Corinthians: 'Though we walk in the flesh 
we do not war according to the flesh; for the weapons of our 
warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God for the pulling 
down of strongholds, casting down imaginations and every 
high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, 
and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of 
Christ.' 1 


Indeed, just as heavenly wisdom makes spiritually-minded 
and lawful sons of the Church, so earthly prudence makes them 
carnal-minded and bastards. Of these, Baruch says: 'And the 
sons of Agar, who sought out diligently that wisdom which is 
of this world, the merchants of Merrha and Theman, the 
spinners of tales and seekers of knowledge, knew not the way 
of wisdom, nor did they remember her paths.' 2 Those who 
desire to pursue worldly knowledge and who despise the wis- 
dom of the spkit are sons of Agar, not of Sarah; and, being 
bastards, are to be judged by the law of Ishmael, not that of 
Israel. And, since the name Agar means 'stranger', they are not 
the children of wisdom, but strangers and pilgrims, but not of 
the number of those to whom the Apostle says: c Now therefore 
ye are no more strangers and pilgrims, but fellow-citizens with 
the saints, and of the household of God.' 3 Do you too, dearly 
beloved (if I may once more use the words of Baruch), learn 
where wisdom dwells. For she is to be found in her essence 
only in God, and of him you must certainly seek her. But 
because the place you hold in the world is not a lowly one, 
and because you cannot abandon it, you will find it useful, in 
avoiding the cadences of pagan rhetoric in conversation, and 
in shunning at all times the sophistication of literary elegance, 
to observe a certain discretion. Be almost slothful in worldly 
matters; but stretch all the sinews of your mind in the discipline 
of the spirit. Be heedless of the former, but eager in the latter. 
Because you cannot of yourself hope entirely to avoid the 

1 2 Cor. x, 3-5. 2 Baruch iii, 22-24. 3 Eph. ii, 19. 



cunning of the serpent in the transaction of worldly affairs, let 
this be enough for you: that the wisdom of the spirit may 
devour your earthly prudence, and transform it into the secret 
substance of her body. The Scriptures tell us, concerning 
Pharaoh's magicians: They cast down every man his rod, and 
they became serpents, but Aaron's rod swallowed up their 
rods.' 1 Now, the rod of Aaron swallowed up the rods of the 
sorcerers because the wisdom of Christ, which it signified, has 
made void all the wisdom of the world, and has united in the 
bowels of His body, the Church, the wise men of this world. 

Besides, it is absurd and disgraceful that we should show the 
same care and precision in human affairs that we devote to the 
things of God and of the spirit. That is why the Lord said to 
Moses: 'Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte and onycha and 
sweet-smelling galbanum and pure frankincense, and thou 
shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the 
apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy.' 2 

We make a perfume of sweet spices when we diffuse the 
odour of a multiplicity of virtues around the altar of good 
works. And it is tempered together and pure, because the more 
we add to virtue, the more purely does the incense of good 
works rise up. And to these words of the Lord were added 
others: 'And thou shalt beat it very small, and put of it before 
the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation.' 3 We beat 
all these spices very small when we pound our good works in 
the pestle of our hearts by secret examination of our con- 
sciences and carefully consider whether they are truly good. 
To reduce the spices to dust is to grind our virtues by means 
of reflection and to subject them to the refinement of inner 


Remember what was said of this dust: 'Thou shalt put of it 
before the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation'; 
for our good works are truly pleasing in the sight of the 
Eternal Judge when our mind mills them by careful considera- 

1 Exod. vii, 12. a Exod. xxx, 34-35. 3 Ibid., 36. 



tion, and as it were reduces the spices to dust. Let not the good 
which we do contain anything harsh or coarse, lest, the severe 
hand of examination having failed to crush it, it should not 
send forth its most delicate fragrance. Such diligence, such 
pressing attention, is not, of course, to be shown to worldly 
things; its purpose is this that we may be found pleasing in 
the sight of the Creator; not that we may appear glorious in 
this world, but that we may be wise in God's sight in our 
judgement. That is why the Lord continued: c You shall not 
make for yourselves according to the composition thereof; it 
shall be unto you holy for the Lord*; 1 and afterwards: 'Whoso- 
ever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall even be 
cut off from his people/ 2 Whoever, then, devotes to the study 
of pagan letters, or to any earthly thing, that care which is 
chiefly due to that punctilious inner examination of ourselves 
whereby we may please God, deserves to perish, for he is 
devoting that incense which should be offered to God alone 
to transitory and vain things. And that which we say concern- 
ing knowledge must be admitted to apply to all the pleasures 
of this life. For it is fitting that worldly prudence should wither 
up in us straightway, and that the wisdom of the spirit alone 
should blossom again in our souls; as the Apostle tells us 
when he says: Tf ye then be risen with Christ, seek the things 
which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of 
God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the 
earth/ 3 It would be none the less fitting that this present 
existence should have no life in our hearts; that, being utterly 
dead to us, it should by no means delight us who are dead, as 
the same Apostle says: Therefore we are buried with him by 
baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the 
dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk 
in newness of life.' 4 Yet since these things are impossible 
especially for those who live in the world, who cannot alto- 
gether attain the summit of this other perfection, they must be 
reminded that they should endeavour to give at all events only 

1 Exod. xxx, 37. 2 !&<!., ?8> 

3 CoL iii, i~2. 4 Rom. vi, 4. 



a secondary place to those things which they cannot completely 


And because this present existence is as delightful to many 
men of the world as a coy wife, we must repeat at greater 
length that even if they cannot, because of the weakness of the 
spirit, hate it as they should, they must not begin to love it 
excessively; so that even if they have not as yet sufficient 
strength to give it a writ of separation they may be ashamed, 
nevertheless, to show it preference in comparison with their 
love of everlasting life. That is why the law declares: "If a man 
have two wives, one beloved and another hated, and they have 
borne him children, both the beloved and the hated, and if the 
first-born son be hers that was hated, then it shall be, when he 
maketh his sons to inherit that which is indeed the first-born, 
by giving him a double portion of all that he hath; for he is the 
beginning of his strength; the right of the first-born is his/ 1 
Now, these two wives of man are virtue and pleasure, at 
variance with each other, feeling jealousy, malice and hatred. 
And pleasure belongs to this life, but virtue to everlasting 
glory. The former is beloved because she allures her husband 
(the feeble soul) with seductive delights; the other is described 
as hated because she causes men to travel a narrow and painful 
road and always sets before them hard and bitter things. But 
the son of the hated wife is our first-born, for our Creator in 
the beginning gave virtue to us, but pleasure, and all the allure- 
ments of the flesh, proceed from the defects of our fallen nature. 
But, since there is not time to set forth word by word all the 
essence of the nature of this precept, let it suffice, for brevity's 
sake, to say that if we cannot drive out the beloved wife, who 
is certainly harmful to us, from sharing our bridal couch, let 
us at any rate strive to exalt the hated wife, who is upright and 
chaste, to the position of the first-born; so that even if it is 
difficult for us, in however small a degree, not to be aware of 
the sweetness of this life, the glory of mastery shall be granted 

1 Deut. xxi, 15-17. 



to virtue, the place of servitude to pleasure. The son of virtue 
shall rule in the dignity of the first-born; the son of pleasure 
shall remain a servant, always under the restraint of discipline. 
Do you by any chance wish to know who are the sons of the 
beloved wife ? Paul will give you the answer: 'Now the works 
of the flesh are manifest, which are these: adultery, fornication, 
uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, vari- 
ance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, 
murders, drunkenness, revellings and suchlike, of the which I 
tell you before, as I have also told you in times past, that they 
which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.' 1 
And would you like to hear now who are the offspring of the 
hated wife? Listen to what he says next: 'But the fruit of the 
spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuflering, gentleness, goodness, 
faith, meekness, temperance.* 2 The first-born son should there- 
fore receive his double portion in this way: the fruit of the 
spirit should rule both body and soul, and should have rights 
over both the inner and the outer man. 


If, then, you find it hard to be content with one wife, and 
have not the strength to give to the beloved wife whom you 
should hate a writ of separation, at least be sure that the hated 
wife, whom you should embrace with all your might, is given 
the highest place in the household of your heart. But she who 
is now wrongly beloved shall have the lowest place until such 
time as she shall gradually, by reason of her hideousness, be- 
come an object of aversion, and aversion be irrevocably turned 
into hatred. Let the son of the hated wife be your first-born, 
and let the multitude of your other children do him reverence. 
That is why we read that Joshua called down a curse upon 
Jericho after she had fallen, saying: 'Cursed be the man before 
the Lord, that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho; he shall 
lay the foundation thereof in his firstborn, and in his youngest 
son shall he set up the gates of it/ 3 For by Jericho which in 
1 Gal v, 19-21. 8 Ibid., 22. 3 Joshua vi, 26. 



our language means 'moon 5 , is signified our present life; so 
that he who builds the city of Jericho on his firstborn is he 
who loves the good things of this life above all else. And 
because Truth Himself has commanded, in the gospel: 'Seek 
ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all 
these things shall be added unto you', 1 anyone who is proved 
to have erred from this commandment is deservedly con- 
demned by a curse, as the prophet bears witness when he says: 
They are cursed who do err from thy commandments.' 2 On 
the other hand, he may be said to set up the gates of Jericho 
in his youngest son who so uses this world's goods that he 
does not possess them with desire but yearns with all his heart 
for the reward of heavenly glory. He who sets earthly things 
below heavenly ones in his love cares not a straw for perish- 
able things. In doing this, he makes the son of the hated wife 
the first-born, according to the commandment of the law, and 
as Joshua says, raises the gates of Jericho on the youngest of 
his children. Cain, on the other hand, built a city upon his 
first-born son Enoch because he did not hope for an inheritance 
to come; and because he destined himself over-hastily for the 
Jericho of this world, he incurred the sentence of everlasting 
damnation. Hence it is written: 'An inheritance may be gotten 
hastily at the beginning; but the end thereof shall not be 
blessed.' 3 

And so, beloved, if you cannot yet be content with the life 
of the spirit alone as your only bride, but are held bound by 
the evil caresses and allurements of life in the world, at least 
let the love of everlasting life hold first place in the household 
of your heart, as befits the first-born; and let concern for earthly 
things be in a place of subjection, as an inferior to be kept in 
check. In the Song of Songs it is said: 'His left hand is under 
my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.' 4 Now the left 
hand is said to be under the head when this life is scorned and 
despised by the mind, which is the head and source of our 
thoughts. He is held in the embrace of the right hand who at 

1 Matt, vi, 33. 2 Ps. odx, 21. 

8 Prov. xx, 21. 4 Song of Sol. ii, 6. 

K 145 


all times takes pleasure in longing for eternal life alone. And 
because Solomon also says: 'Give a portion to seven and also 
to eight', 1 hasten forward in this life, which is signified by the 
number seven, in suchwise that you may now strive with all 
your powers to abide in the love of life everlasting, which 
through the number eight signifies the glory of the resurrec- 
tion. Show only a careless and fleeting concern for this world; 
fix your unwavering and enduring purpose of unfailing love 
on the world to come, which is everlasting. Moreover, I would 
like to remind you that what I have said of this mortal life 
applies also to the wisdom of the world, so that in your soul 
mortal life and earthly wisdom may yield, trodden down, as it 
were by the heel of the mind. But may the love of eternal life 
and zeal for spiritual wisdom surpass all other things, set on 
the highest pinnacle of your heart, so that when you spurn this 
life and its wisdom, you may deserve by happy exchange to be 
filled with the divine Spirit, who will urge you on to eternal 

Blessed be the name of the Lord. 

1 Eccles. xl, 2. 


Sermon for the feast of Epiphany 

'When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Juda, in the days of 
Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the East to 
Jerusalem, saying, Where is He that is born King of the Jews ? 
for we have seen His star in the east, and are come with gifts 
to worship him.' 1 Praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise Him, 
all ye people. 2 For before the Almighty Word came down from 
His heavenly throne, and when the night was in the midst of 
her course, the people of the Gentiles walked in darkness 3 
because they loved darkness rather than light, 4 and they fol- 
lowed the paths of error and stood in the way of sinners, 5 each 
going his own way, one to his farm, another to his merchandise; 6 
and their foolish hearts were darkened; 7 they were too much 
concerned with the work of their hands. All their fathers of 
old were under the cloud, 8 so that they saw with the eyes of 
night, and could not look upon the glory of Moses' counten- 
ance; there was a veil over their hearts, and dark waters and 
thick clouds in the skies; 9 for the precious sons of Zion were 
turned into earthen pitchers, the work of the potter's hand, 
the stones of the sanctuary were scattered at the top of every 
street, their silver was turned into dross, and their innkeepers 
mixed water with their wine; the gold became dim, and the 
most fine gold was changed; 10 there was none of them that did 
good; no, not one. 11 Then there was darkness over the whole 

1 Matt, ii, i. 2 Ps. cxvil, i. 8 Isa. ix, 2. 

4 John iii, 19. 5 Ps. i, i. 6 Matt, xxii, 5. 

7 Rom. i, 21. s i Cor. x, i. 9 Ps. xviii, n. 

10 Lam. iv, i. u Ps. xiv, 3. 



earth, for Jew and Gentile alike made their beds in the shadows, 
dwelling in darkness and in the shadow of death. 1 But the 
night was far spent, and the day was at hand; a light shone in 
our prison-house, a light arose in the darkness unto the up- 
right, and the day spring from on high visited us; that morning 
star which knows no setting rose when the true Light, which 
lights every man that comes into the world, shone in the dark- 
ness, and the darkness comprehended it not. 2 

Therefore the Jews and the Gentiles were in darkness until 
the time of fulfilment. But when the fullness of time was come 
the Lord sent the lamb to the ruler of the land from the rock 
in the wilderness to the mount of the daughter of Zion, 3 and 
the stone which the builders rejected became the headstone of 
the corner. And because He came to gather together the 
scattered sheep (although He was sent in the first place only to 
the lost sheep of the house of Israel yet He had other sheep 
that were not of that fold, and it was necessary for Him to 
bring them also, so that there might be one fold and one 
shepherd), 4 the light rose on all who dwelt in the land of the 
shadow of death, Jew and Gentile alike. That is why, at the 
Lord's birth, the brightness of God shone round about the 
shepherds, because the angel brought them good tidings of 
great joy; and on this day which we celebrate the brightness of 
the star bore witness to the presence of the newly-born Saviour. 
The voice of the angels spoke to the Jews, as to reasonable 
men; the star of heaven was the instrument of speech to the 
Gentiles, since they were like the beasts of wood and field. 
And so a light heralded the Light, a created thing bore witness 
to its Creator, the thing made spoke of its Maker, and a new 
star declared the true Sun. Praise, therefore, the Lord, all ye 
nations: praise him, all ye people. Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with 
his people. 5 Let the Gentiles be glad and the Jews exult; for 
the Sun has shone forth from the star, and the Maker of the 
Virgin has been formed in the Virgin his creature. The man 
who was formed in her was also the Highest Himself who 

1 Luke i, 79. 2 John i, 5. 8 Isa. xvi, i. 

4 John x, 1 6. fi Rom. xv a 10. 



established her. 1 The Sun has risen from a star, health from 
sickness, life from death, light from darkness, sweetness from 
bitterness, a rose from a thorn, a father from his daughter, a 
lord from his handmaiden, and from a little stream has come 
a well of water springing up into everlasting life. 2 So the Sun 
has risen from a star and was also heralded by a star. 

There was a star in the sky, a star on earth and the Sun in 
the manger. The star in the sky was that bright heavenly body; 
the star on earth, the Virgin Mary; the Sun in the manger, 
Christ our Lord. Of the star in the sky we read in the Gospel: 
*We have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship 
Him/ 3 Of the star on earth, Balaam prophesied: 'There shall 
come a Star out of Jacob that shall smite all the nations/ 4 
According to the Book of Wisdom, the wicked shall say of the 
Sun in the manger: 'We have strayed from the path of truth, 
and the sun of justice has not shone upon us/ 5 Of Him the 
Apostle says: 'Let not the sun go down upon your anger/ 6 
Is it not He who set the tabernacle of His flesh in the sun 
when He was as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber? 7 

A star, brethren, has four main characteristics: it has the 
nature of fire, it is bright and clear, it sends forth a ray and it 
shines in the night. We can find all these qualities in our star, 
the Virgin Mary. She is that burning bush in which the Lord 
appeared to Moses, which burned with fire and yet was not 
consumed; for though she was with child she was not con- 
sumed by the flames of desire. She is in herself bright and 
splendid, so that it was said of her in the Song of Songs: 'Who 
is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, 
clear as the sun?' 8 And she has sent forth from herself a ray 
which pierces to the secret places of the heart and searches the 
heart and the reins; 9 this is the living Word of God, quick and 
powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing 
even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit. The meaning 
of her name is very fitting, for Mary means 'star of the sea 5 . 

1 Ps. Ixxxvii, 5. 2 John iv, 14. 8 Matt, ii, 2. 

4 Num. xxiv, 17. 5 Wisd. of Sol. v, 6. 8 Eph. iv, 26. 

7 Ps. xk, 4-5. 8 Song of Sol. vi, 10. 9 Jer. xvii, 10. 



The sea is this world, of which it was written: This great and 
wide sea, wherein are innumerable creeping things/ 1 And she 
is rightly named 'star of the sea', for she shines on the world 
like an incomparable star, and her brightness makes the world 
light, and she has sent forth from herself that ray 'which 
lighteth every man that cometh into the world'. And just as 
the ray issues from the star without destroying the star's in- 
tegrity, so the Son came forth from the Virgin while her vir- 
ginity remained inviolate, as Ezekiel prophesied: 'This gate 
shall be shut, and no man shall enter in by it, but the Lord 
alone shall enter in by it.' 2 A star shines in the night, and the 
Virgin shines in the night of this world with an incomparable 
light, so that it was said of her: 'Thou alone hast destroyed all 
heresies throughout the whole world.' 3 Such is our star, 
brethren, such is the Virgin Mary, the star of the sea, and 
because she has left us an example, that we should follow 
her steps, of such kind should our souls be. 

Let us then, brethren, have the nature of fire, so that we 
may have in us that fire which the Lord came to send on the 
earth; 4 may that fire which blazed in the bones of Jeremiah be 
kindled in the melting-furnace of our hearts, where the Lord 
sits purifying and cleansing the sons of Levi. 5 Let us be clear 
and shining that the day may break upon us, and the shadows 
flee away; 6 so that putting off the old man with his deeds we 
may put on the new man which is created after God; 7 for we 
were sometimes darkness, but now are we light in the Lord. 8 
Then let us put on the armour of light, and walk honestly, as 
in the day. 9 Let us send forth from ourselves the ray of good 
works, for it is written: c Let your loins be girded up and lan- 
terns burning in your hands.* 10 To carry burning lanterns in our 
hands is to shine upon our neighbours by the example of our 
righteous deeds and to draw back the curtain; and let him that 
lieareth say, Come. 11 Let your light so shine before men that 

1 Ps. civ, 25. 2 Ezek. xliv, 2. 

3 Tract of the Mass, 'Salve, sancta parens' of the Common of the B.V.M, 

4 Luke xii, 49. 5 Mai. iii, 3. 6 Song of Sol. ii, 17. 
7 Col. iii, 9-10. 8 Eph. v, 8. d Rom. xtti, 12-13. 

10 Luke xii, 35. u Rev. xxii, 17. 



they may see your good works and glorify your Father which 
is in heaven, 1 and many shall run after the odour of your 
ointments. 2 

A star shines in the night: let us, brethren, shine in this 
world of night, for the Scriptures say: c among them you shine 
as lights set in the heavens.' 3 Let us shine with the brightness 
of wisdom among the shadows of heresy, for it is written: 
'Take us the little foxes, that spoil the Lord's vine/ 4 That is 
why the Lord says: 'Be ye wise as serpents and harmless as 
doves.' 5 And so, brethren, if we follow in the footsteps of the 
Virgin, our star, we will be enabled to attain to the true 

The sun has five main characteristics. It is unchangeable of 
its very nature, whereas the moon changes each month. It is 
unflawed by any spot, whereas the moon is always spotted. 
The sun possesses a fullness of light, and the other heavenly 
bodies take their light from it. Although it is unchangeable, 
the sun sometimes suffers eclipse; and it shines always by day. 
Let us look carefully for these characteristics in our true Sun. 
The sun is of its very nature unchangeable, and Christ Himself 
remains unchangeable by the power of His divine nature. He 
Himself says: *I am the Lord: I change not'; 6 in Him there is 
no change nor shadow of alteration. The sun is without flaw, 
as He is who alone came into the world without stain, for He 
has done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth. 7 
The sun possesses a fullness of light, and in Him to whom 
God did not give the Spirit by measure all the fullness of the 
Godhead dwells bodily; 8 and of His fullness we have all re- 
ceived, and grace for grace, 9 and it is like the precious ointment 
which ran from Aaron's head to his beard and from there to 
the hem of his garments. The sun sometimes suffers eclipse; 
and Christ Himself suffered in His passion the eclipse of death 
when the Shepherd departed, laying down His life for His 
sheep, and He bowed His head and gave up the ghost. The 

1 Matt, v, 16. 2 Song of Sol. i, 3. 3 Phil, ii, 15. 

4 Song of Sol. ii, 15. 5 Matt, x, 16. 8 Mai. Hi, 6. 

7 Isa. M, 9. 8 Col. ii, 9. 9 John i, 16. 



sun shines always by day, and the Lord after His resurrection 
brought to naught the darkness of human mortality; being 
raised from the dead He dieth no more; death hath no more 
dominion over Him. 1 He dwells in the light which no man can 
approach unto 2 and in Him is no darkness at all. 3 John the 
solitary eagle beheld His unreflected light with the naked eye, 
when he soared so high that the whole world would not have 
been able to contain him if he had thundered a little higher: 
c ln the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, 
and the Word was God.' 4 

The enlightened wise men who dwell in the land of the sun's 
rising came to the Sun; the star which takes its light from the 
sun led them to adore the Sun. Let us take good heed of what 
they did. They came from the east to Jerusalem, and when they 
had come they asked: 'Where is He that is born King of the 
Jews ?' They came to the place where He was and fell down; 
falling down they worshipped Him; worshipping Him, they 
offered Him gifts. They journeyed with unwearying toil; they 
inquired with careful anxiety; they fell down in proper humi- 
lity; they worshipped Him in piety of spirit; and they offered 
Him gifts in the pure devotion of faith. 'And they presented 
unto Him gold and frankincense and myrrh/ 5 See, the first- 
fruits of the Gentiles were the first to offer a pure and un- 
tainted belief. To God they offered incense, to the mortal man 
myrrh, and gold to the king. The incense showed their belief 
in His divinity, the myrrh their belief in His mortal humanity 
and the gold their belief in His royal majesty. For He was both 
God and man, Emmanuel, which means c God with us'; He 
was made both rich and poor; and He was of kingly race, as is 
written in His genealogy: 'The book of the generation of 
Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham.' 6 

Or we may say that all three gifts were offered to the human 
Christ: the gold to the king, the incense to the priest and the 
niyrrh to the mortal man. For He was of priestly as well as 
royal descent. He was a king, and on His vesture and on His 

1 Rom. vi, 9. 2 i Tim. vi, 16. 8 i John i, 5. 

4 John i, i. 5 Matt, ii, n. 6 Matt, i, i. 



thigh was written < King of kings and Lord of lords 5 . 1 And He 
was a priest after the order of Melchizedek the king of Salem, 
who was the priest of the most high God; for neither by the 
blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered 
in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption 
for us. 2 For we are now returned unto the shepherd and bishop 
of our souls. 3 He was a mortal man too, for surely He hath 
borne our griefs and carried our sorrows in His body on the 
Cross. The Virgin herself, the star of the sea, offered these 
same gifts in her own person to the Sun who was born of her. 
She offered the gold of royal majesty, for she herself was of 
kingly race: 'And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of 
whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ/ 4 She offered 
frankincense and myrrh too, and so we read of her in the Song 
of Songs: 'Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like 
pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with 
all the powders of the merchant ?' 5 Myrrh guards the bodies of 
the dead from worms and preserves them from corruption; 
this is why Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes 
to embalm the body of Jesus. Myrrh symbolizes the purity of 
the flesh and frankincense the devotion of the spirit. We do 
well to perceive these qualities in our virgin star, for purity of 
body and devotion of spirit alike endured for ever in the Virgin 
Mary. And it is right that c all the powders of the merchant' 
should be added; for she was so filled with the gifts of the 
Holy Spirit that she deserved to hear the greeting: 'Hail, thou 
that art full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou 
among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.' 6 These, 
brethren, are the gifts which were offered by the wise men and 
by the Virgin Mary. And since they have given us an example, 
let us do likewise. 

The kings came; let us come too, for it is written: 'Come to 
me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you 
rest'; 7 and elsewhere: 'Come to me, all ye who desire me.' 8 

1 Rev. xix, 1 6. 2 Heb. ix, 12. 8 i Pet. ii, 25. 

4 Matt, i, 1 6. 5 Song of Sol. iii, 6. 6 Luke i, 28, 42. 

7 Matt, xi, 28. 8 Eccles. xxiv, 26. 



The wise men sought Him; let us seek Him also, for it is 
written: 'Seek ye the Lord while he may be found.' 1 They fell 
down; let us do likewise, for the Psalmist says: 'O come; let us 
worship and bow down.' 2 They adored Him; let us too adore 
Him, for the Scriptures say: 'Worship the Lord in the beauty 
of holiness/ 3 They offered gifts to Him; we must do the same, 
for it is written: 'I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of 
God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, 
acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.' 4 Let 
us offer those three gifts which the wise men presented, but 
under a different form: the myrrh of mortification, so that 
mortifying our members which are on earth we may hold our 
bodies and their desires as of no account, crucifying the flesh 
with its affections and lusts, 5 and in all these things let our 
service be reasonable; the incense of devout prayer, in accord- 
ance with the words of the Apostle: C I will pray with the spirit, 
and I will pray with the understanding also; I will sing with 
the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also/ 6 so that 
'my prayer may be set before the Lord as incense'; 7 gold too, 
the splendour of wisdom (for gold symbolizes wisdom, 
according to the text: 'There is desirable treasure in the mouth 
of a wise man'), 8 that we may be prepared to give an account 
of the faith and hope that Is in us to any inquirer, and may 
shine with the splendour of wisdom, and fight without fear 
against the darkness of heresy; that we may be able to say: 
'The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of 
gold and silver.' 9 1 would that you were not more likely to say 
'The law of Justinian's mouth is better unto me than thousands 
of gold and silver.' 'The proud have digged pits for me, which 
are not after thy law'; 10 'they have forsaken the Lord, the foun- 
ain of living waters' 11 so that Wisdom may rightly complain: 
'They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters.' 12 For 
those who should meditate upon the law of the Lord night and 

1 Isa. lv, 6. s Ps. xcv, 6. 8 Ps. xxix, 2. 

4 Rom. xii, i. B Gal. v, 24, 6 i Cor. xiv, 15. 

7 Ps. cxli, 2. 8 Prov. xxi, 20 (misreading). 9 Ps. cxix, 72. 

10 Ibid., 85. J1 Jer. xvii, 13. 12 Jer. ii, 13. 



day have turned from the truth to listen to fables. Let the 
sentries set upon the walls of the Church be watchful, lest 
Samson's foxes should burn our standing corn; and let the 
tower of David whereon there hang a thousand bucklers be 
set against Damascus, Tor the Lord's name is a mighty tower; 
the righteous runneth into it and is safe.' 1 These are the Holy 
Writings in which the Lord's name is invoked; and bishops 
and teachers are established in this fortress, who must keep its 
boundaries. Of them it is written: 'Remove not the ancient 
landmarks which thy fathers have set.' For Moses set bounds 
around Mount Sinai, which might not be passed. Would that 
no man would pass these bounds who was not worthy of the 
stone tablets of the Law. Upon this fortress of Holy Scripture 
there hang a thousand bucklers. The perfection of authority, 
that is, against the power of the heretics. For no other founda- 
tion can man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ, 2 that 
is, the mystery of Christ. 

The mystery of Christ is unchangeable and immovable, for 
there is manifold witness to it. The witness of men and women, 
of those in the prime of life and of the aged, of things earthly 
and heavenly, of Gentile and Jew, of ancient times and of His 
own day; the witness of light and of darkness, of the Law and 
the Prophets, of kings and of the multitude, of living and 
dead, of brute beasts, of the sun and of the elements. There 
was the witness of men, for there were shepherds in that 
country, and coming they made known the saying which was 
told them concerning this child; 3 the witness of angels, for 
c the angel of the Lord came upon them . . . and said to them 
'Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy ... for unto you 
is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ 
the Lord.' 4 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude 
of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, Glory to God 
in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will.' 5 There 
was the witness of women, for Anna the prophetess, PhanueTs 
daughter, gave thanks to the Lord and spoke of Him to all that 

1 Prov. xviii, 10. 2 i Cor. Hi, n. 3 Luke ii, 8, 17. 

4 Ibid., 9-1 1. 6 Ibid., 13, 14. 


looked for redemption in Jerusalem. 1 There was the witness 
of men in their prime, for on one day three thousand were 
converted and on another five thousand; and of old men, for 
Simeon the ancient of days, whose hair was like white wool, 
who had received an answer from the Holy Spirit that he 
should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ, 
taking Him in his arms said: 'Lord, now lettest thou thy 
servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes 
have seen thy salvation/ 2 There was, too, the witness of 
children, for those Innocents confessed the Lord not with 
their tongues but by their deaths. Earthly things bore witness, 
for there was peace on earth to men of good will; so much 
peace that the whole world could be enrolled by one man, 
Caesar Augustus. Of his peace, Isaiah said: 'They shall beat 
their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning- 
hooks.' 3 The heavens bore witness too, and sent a new star, 
as the Gospel says: 'And lo, the star, which they saw in the 
east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the 
young child was.' 4 The Gentiles bore witness, for the wise 
men, coming to Jerusalem, said: 'Where is He that is born 
King of the Jews ?' 5 The Jews bore witness, for Herod, gather- 
ing together the chief priests and scribes of the people, de- 
manded of them where the Christ should be born, and they 
said: In Bethlehem of Judaea/ 6 The ancients bore witness, for 
He used similitudes by the ministry of the prophets. 7 He is the 
Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. 8 The men of 
His own time bore witness, so that He said to His disciples: 
'Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all 
Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the 
earth.' 9 Light bore witness, for the glory of the Lord shone 
round about the shepherds and the brightness of the star shone 
upon the wise men. Darkness bore witness, for at His death 
darkness covered the face of the earth. The Law bore witness, 
for Moses said in the Law: 'The Lord thy God will raise up 

1 Luke ii, 36-38. 2 Ibid., 26-30. 8 Isa, ii, 4. 

4 Matt ii, 9. 5 Ibid., 2. 6 Ibid., ii, 4-5. 

7 Hos. xii, 10. 8 Rev. xiii, 8. 9 Acts i 8. 

I 5 6 


unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee; unto him shall ye 
hearken/ 1 and again: 'Thy life shall hang on a tree; and thou 
shalt see and shalt not understand.' The prophets bore witness. 
Isaiah said: 'And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem 
of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his root, and the spirit 
of the Lord shall rest upon him.' 2 And again: 'Behold a virgin 
shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Im- 
manuel.' 3 And Baruch says: 'After this he revealed himself on 
earth, and spoke with mortal men.' 4 Ezekiel was called 'son' 
in bearing witness. Daniel says: 'When the holy of holies is 
come, your anointing shall cease.' Hosea took to himself a 
wife of whoredoms to bear witness to Him. 6 Habbakuk said: 
'He had horns coming out of his hands.' 6 Jonah in the whale's 
belly bore witness to His testimony. But why enumerate each 
one? There was no prophet who did not bear witness to Him. 
Kings too bore witness; so King David said: 'Our land shall 
yield her increase'; 7 and again: 'Let the earth open, and let 
them bring forth salvation.' 8 And Solomon says: 'Let him kiss 
me with the kisses of his mouth, for thy breasts are better than 
wine, because of the savour of thy good ointments' and 'While 
the king sitteth at his table my spikenard sendeth forth the 
smell thereof.' 9 The multitudes bore witness, for the Gospel 
tells us that they said: 'We have seen strange things today,' 10 
and 'If this man were not God, he could do nothing.' 11 And 
because of this they wanted to take Him by force and make 
Him king. Living men bore witness, for the two who were 
travelling to Emmaus came and told all that had befallen them. 
Dead men bore witness, for 'many bodies of the saints which 
slept arose and appeared to many.' 12 The brute beasts bore wit- 
ness: 'The ox knoweth his owner and the ass his master's crib.' 13 
The sun bore witness when it was darkened. The earth and the 
elements bore witness in the great earthquake. 14 The air bore 

I Dent, xviii, 15. 2 Isa. xi, 1-2. 3 Ibid., vli, 14. 
4 Baruch Hi, 38. 5 Hos. i, 2. ft Hab. in, 4. 

7 Ps. Ixxxv, 12. 8 This is, of course, not David, but Isa. Ixv, 8. 

9 Song of Sol. i, 2 and 12. 10 Luke v. 26. 

II John k, 33. 12 Matt, xxvii, 52-53. ** Isa. i, 3. 
14 Matt. xxvH, 51. 



witness when a cloud received him out of the sight of his 
disciples. 1 Fire bore witness when the angel of the Lord 
descended from heaven, and his countenance was like light- 
ning, 2 for lightning has the nature of fire. 

Since then, brethren, the mystery of the Cross had the wit- 
ness of all that I have mentioned, let the unhappy Jew be 
ashamed who denies Christ born of the Virgin, for the Jewish 
shepherds found what was declared unto them. Let the gentile 
who says to a stock 'Thou art my God* and to a stone 'Thou 
has brought me forth' 3 be confounded; for the gentile wise 
men adored Him. Let the heretic who denies the mystery of the 
Cross be silent. Let every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is 
Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 4 And may our Lord 
Jesus, who is the splendour of lights, the flower of flowers, 
the life of goodness, the school of virtues and the crown of 
the saints, and who reigns over the choirs of angels for ever 
and ever lead us to that glory. Amen. 

1 John, vi, 19. 2 Matt, xxviii, 2-3. 

3 Jer. ii, 27. 4 PHI. ii, u. 

I 5 8 

A Homily in Honour and 'Praise of 
St. "Benedict ', Abbot and Confessor 

"Simon Peter said to Jesus: "Behold, we have forsaken all, 
and followed thee." ?1 

We should be obliged to labour with all our strength on this 
special feast of our father were it not that the noble tongue of 
Gregory has given a magnificent account of his whole life. 2 
His work is of such kind that he has depicted the saint's life 
with the brightness of flowing eloquence; his style glows with 
the majesty of his periods and his sentences shine in the clarity 
of his style. It is superfluous, therefore, to add anything to 
what such a man has akeady said; for we know that in com- 
parison with him we are not only lacking in eloquence but 
dumb. It is enough to say that St. Benedict will give to the 
Heavenly Prince a great army, and fill the heavenly mansions 
with a throng of monks living an angelic life. How splendid 
and glorious a warrior he will appear before the imperial 
tribunal, full of infinite virtue, accompanied by an innumerable 
troop of soldiers, the King's counsellor, the Judge's friend, 
the peerless enemy of our ancient foe! 

Simon Peter's words to Jesus: 'Behold, we have forsaken 
all', apply to him and to all who follow him. This is a friendly 
saying of Simon's, a word lovelier than all the flowers of 
rhetoric; and Simon is worthy to speak more fully with the 
Saviour. Now Simon means 'obedient' and Jesus means 
'saviour'. Obedience, then, speaks with salvation; for eternal 

1 Matt, xix, 27. 2 Gregory the Great, Dialogue^ L 



salvation is due by hereditary right to the obedient alone, and 
only to them if Peter is there too; if, that is to say, obedience is 
unwavering and unshaken and founded on the solid rock. 
What does he say? 'Behold, we have forsaken all and followed 
thee.* Solemn word, mighty undertaking, a holy -work and one 
worthy of blessing, to leave all things and follow Christ. These 
are the persuasive words of voluntary poverty, which have 
brought forth monasteries, and filled the cloister with monks 
and the woods with anchorites. These are the words of which 
the Church sings: c By the word of thy lips I have kept me from 
the paths of the destroyer.' 1 We shall receive rest for our 
labour, riches for our poverty, a reward for our tribulation. It 
is a great thing to forsake all, but to follow Christ is a greater; 
for we read of many who have left all but who have not fol- 
lowed Christ. This is our task, this our labour; in this lies the 
essence of human salvation; nor can we follow Christ unless 
we forsake all, for He rejoices as a strong man to run a race, 2 
and he who bears a load cannot follow. No one swims bearing 
loads, says that orator of secular teaching whose nobility of 
style and profundity of meaning have made him a friend of 
poverty. He does right to forsake all things who is following 
Him who is above all things; for our sufficiency is of God, 3 
and God will be all in all. 4 

'Behold/ he says, e we have forsaken all' not only the riches 
of this world but the desires of the soul too; for he who holds 
on to the self has not forsaken all. And it is useless to abandon 
other things if we do not abandon ourselves, since man's 
heaviest burden is man himself. What tyrant is more cruel to 
man, what power more savage, than his own will ? Under its 
sway you can never rest or sit at your ease, and the more it 
wearies you in enforcing obedience to itself, the more it goads 
and stings and weighs you down, being unmindful of kindness 
and a stranger to mercy. This is the nature of self-will: the 
more obedient its subject, the more cruelly Is he bound in its 
chains. It alone is loved; yet it deserves nothing but hatred, 

1 Ps. xvH, 4. * Ps. xix, 5- 

8 2 Cor. iii, 5. 4 i Cor. xv, 28. 

1 60 


for it is the foundation of iniquity, the source of death and the 
great destroyer of virtue. 'Come, then, all ye that labour and 
are heavy laden' 1 to the Hghtener of loads, and answer Him in 
word and deed: 'Behold, we have forsaken all and followed 
thee.' Mark how once, before the Word was made flesh and 
dwelt amongst us, the Fathers of ancient times followed God, 
cleaving by the spirit alone to Him who was only spirit. Now, 
however, we must follow Him with our bodies also; for 
although we read that these fathers abounded in worldly 
riches, we know now that whosoever he be of you that for- 
saketh not all that he hath, he cannot be the disciple 2 of Him 
who, though He was rich yet for our sakes He became poor. 3 
We must forsake all our possessions and our own wills, then, 
if we wish to follow Him who had nowhere to lay His head, 4 
who came to do not His own will but the will of Him that 
sent Him. 5 

The words which follow are these: 'What shall we have 
therefore ?' Peter has forsaken all; not only is he following, he 
has followed for a long time; and now for the first time he 
asks what he will receive. What, Peter ? Did you not promise 
obedience to the voice? You made no contract with the Lord. 
But listen to what the Lord God says, and await that hope in 
which, in this uncertain world, we must confide. 'Verily 1 say 
unto you, that ye which have followed me, in the regeneration 
where the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of his glory, you 
also shall sit and judge.' 6 How infinite is the sweetness of the 
Lord's mercies to His poor; He does not forsake in death those 
for whom He gave Himself to agony and death. 'Ye which 
have followed me', He says, 'shall, in the regeneration, when 
the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of his glory, also sit and 
judge.' What is this but to say that we shall accompany Him 
whom we follow; but only if we follow perseveringly, for it is 
written 'Seek peace, and pursue it'. 7 So run, therefore, that ye 
may obtain, and do not long to be idle before you have 

1 Matt, xi, 28. 2 Luke xiv, 33. 8 2 Cor. viii, 9. 

4 Luke ix, 58. 8 John vi, 38. 6 Matt, xix, 28. 

7 Ps. xxxiv, 14. 


attained to Him who is seated, and so deserved to sit with 
Him. For 'He rejoiced as a strong man to run a race 51 during 
all the time that He revealed Himself on earth and held con- 
verse with mortal men; 2 nor did He sit idle until He came to 
Him whom He Himself had established as the end of striving 
and sadness: c my soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death', 
He said. 3 Therefore, when the Son of man, who first endured 
the shameful torment of the cross, and was tried by pain and 
mockery, shall sit on the throne of His glory, you also shall sit 
and judge; but which of you, who give yourselves no rest, 
shall begin to judge, since he came not to judge but to be 
judged, not to be ministered to, but to minister? There indeed 
are set thrones of judgment. 4 Our Saviour, God's Son, who 
has an indivisible unity of nature, sits, because He is God, at 
the right hand of God; 5 because He is man, He appears in the 
presence of God for us. 6 Nor will He sit in triumph until God 
is all in all, that is, until the body is united to the head in such 
peace that we shall be like Him, though not equal to Him. At 
this moment, however, He is still denied by the Jews, mocked 
by the Gentiles, wounded by heretics, and seriously assailed by 
false Christians; do you really think He sits in quietness, paying 
no heed to the glances of the arrogant, the attacks of the 
wicked, the desires of those who reject Him? But in the 
regeneration He will sit with His followers, where we shall be 
cleansed to clearest light in soul and body; then He, having 
overthrown His enemies, will enter with His friends into glory, 
joining angels and men in everlasting unity and restoring the 
losses of the Holy City. All this shall come about in the 
regeneration. Blessed regeneration, which will renew heaven 
and earth, join together the dwellers on earth with the in- 
habitants of heaven, and cause the fountain of perpetual peace 
to flow in an unending stream. 

Mark that there is one birth, but two regenerations. In our 
birth, which springs from a diseased root, our bodies are made 
subject to death and our souls filled with iniquity. In the 

1 Ps. xix, 5. 2 Baruch Hi, 38. s Matt, xxvi, 38. 

4 Ps. cxxii, 5. 5 Ps. ex, i. 6 Heb. ix, 24. 



regeneration of baptism, in which we must be born again, the 
soul is cleansed from iniquity, but our bodies are not freed 
from death. A second regeneration, the resurrection, is neces- 
sary, that our bodies may be found fashioned like to the 
glorious body of Christ; 1 but this will only take place if our 
hearts are first made meek and humble like His heart. There- 
fore 'blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrec- 
tion* 2 for he shall have part in the second also. 'In that regenera- 
tion when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, 
you also shall sit and judge.* 

That is why the Scriptures say elsewhere: Tor your shame 
ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in 
their portion.' 3 The poverty of those who follow the Lord 
brings in its train two things: suffering and lowliness. So the 
Prophet says: c Look upon mine affliction and my pain/ 4 
Because of this, they shall have double in their land: the dig- 
nity of judicial power for their lowliness, and the refreshment 
of tranquil peace for their suffering. When, then, shall we too 
sit at ease, who know no rest or quiet or stability in soul or 
body? When shall we be freed from the restlessness of our 
unquiet nature? Our bodies can know no rest; they are pre- 
vented by knowledge of present pain, fear of death to come, 
passible and mortal as they are. Neither can our spirits, be- 
cause we await in hope, and are anxious and fearful. But a 
time will come when the soul will rest in one hope alone; it 
will be freed from anxiety, though not from expectation. That 
will be its state between the death of the body and the day of 
judgement. For in that day, when the Son of man shall sit, we 
also will sit perfect in all things, our bodies undisturbed by 
knowledge of pain, undistressed by the fear of death, gloriously 
clothed in the twofold robe of impassibility and immortality, 
and our souls free from all expectation and anxiety, lacking 
nothing and fearing no peril, in most perfect security and 
secure perfection. 'You shall sit', says the Lord who is Truth. 
Splendid sitting, welcome rest, full sufficiency. 'Ye sons of 

1 Phil, iii, 21. 2 Rev. xx, 6. 

3 Isa. bd, 7. 4 Ps. xxv, 18. 



men, how long will ye be dull of heart ? How long will ye love 
vanity and seek after lying P' 1 You seek glory from your fellow- 
men, a vain and deceitful glory, for men are vain and men are 
liars; you do not desire the glory which comes from God 
alone, the only true and lasting glory. Wretched and pitiable 
creatures, who lose the fountain of delight for the sake of brief 
pleasure, and cut yourselves off from the Divine mercy, so 
that you will never drink your fill at the breasts of His comfort. 
But lest our long awaiting should mar the sweetness of His 
promise, He controls the restlessness of our minds with a 
sweeter word. Tor he knoweth our frame*; 2 He knows that 
our weakness cannot brook delays; in His loving kindness He 
meets this problem and counteracts it, saying: 'And everyone 
that hath forsaken house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or 
mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my name's sake, 
shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.' 3 
"The mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped'; 4 now all 
they who transgress without cause are ashamed. 5 For we have 
promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to 
come; 6 and it is clear that the promise of receiving a hundred- 
fold applies to this life, since the words which follow are c and 
shall inherit everlasting life'. But, to remove all possibility of 
argument or denial, read St. Mark's Gospel, where it is clearly 
shown that the promise of receiving a hundredfold applies to 
this life. For the Lord says: 'There is no man that hath left 
house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife or 
children, or lands, for my sake and the gospels, but he shall 
receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses and brethren 
etc.' 7 And for our greater wonder, lest we should think that the 
promise, although it applies to this life, concerns worldly 
goods, He adds: 'with persecutions'. 8 What of earthly sub- 
stance did the holy martyrs receive in the time of their persecu- 
tion, when the very earth of their holy bodies was given into 
the hands of wicked men? So we must not take the promise of 

1 Ps. iv, 2. 2 Ps. ciii, 14. 3 Matt, xix, 29. 

4 Ps. Ixiii, n. 6 Ps. xxv, 3. 6 i Tim. iv, 8. 

7 Mark x, 29-30. 8 Mark x, 30. 



receiving houses and brethren etc. a hundredfold to apply 
literally for it is obvious that no man can receive a hundred 
mothers! But if we take this promise to mean that community 
of goods and mutual affection which exists among the elect, 
we can come part of the way towards understanding it; but 
only part of the way. For we know that some of the saints 
have lacked all earthly and human consolation. You must 
therefore look for this hundredfold reward in your heart, in 
the inner man, that now you may reap the fruits of holiness 
and at the end life everlasting. 

Those who have not yet received the hundredfold reward 
must scrutinize their hearts and diligently examine all the 
work of their hands; they will certainly find some corner or 
lodging-place unknown to the Saviour. Yet the foxes have 
holes, and the birds of the air have nests. Let them forsake all 
more completely; let them not seek their own, let them not 
keep anything, either for themselves or for others. For there 
are many who, while despising their own desires and ambi- 
tions, keep for others what they ought to relinquish, for ever 
striving on their behalf with an unsuitable solicitude which is 
contrary to religion. How many monks lose their souls 
through having a greater regard for their kinsmen than is 
right ? Let them forsake all, and follow Christ; let them strive 
to please Christ alone and cleave to His good will and pleasure 
with watchful care; then they will certainly experience what 
Truth Himself promised to those who forsake all and follow 
Him: c He shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit ever- 
lasting life.' The first is given to comfort us on our journey; 
the second shall be given to us for blessedness in our native 
land for ever. And what is our hundredfold reward but the 
consolations, the visitations and the firstfruits of the Spirit, 
sweeter than honey; the witness of our consciences; the joyous 
and lovely expectation of the just, the memory of God's 
abundant sweetness, the great multitude of His delights, of 
which there is no need to tell those who have known them, 
just as it is impossible to describe them to those who have not 
known them. It is not father or mother, house or lands, food 


or clothing, nor any earthly or bodily thing, but something 
more delectable and sweeter and more joyous than any of 

There is no one to whom all this exposition of our text 
better applies than to our father and master St. Benedict. He 
forsook die world and all its flowers in boyhood to run with 
strong strides after the running Christ; and he did not rest 
until he had caught up with Him. Who shall be given a higher 
place among the judges ? Who more than he received a hun- 
dredfold in this life? By his intercession, therefore, may He 
who came that we may have life and have it more abundantly 
vouchsafe to grant to us the bounty of His grace, that we may 
be comforted on earth and inherit everlasting life, Jesus Christ 
our Lord, who is for ever blessed. Amen. 

1 66 

Sermon for the Feast of the Finding 
of the Holy Cross 

Today, dearly beloved, we celebrate the finding of the Cross; 
and we should all rejoice together in Christ, because the 
treasure-house of all the world is found; and as He, finding the 
sheep or the groat which was lost, summoned His friends and 
neighbours and rejoiced, so it is right that we, having found 
that which He did not lose, but by which He regained us who 
were lost, should glory; especially since the Apostle says: 
'God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord 
Jesus Christ.' 1 Moreover our lively minds should the more 
readily be filled with spiritual joy since we know that the 
enemy of human salvation is sighing bitterly. For the devil 
rejoiced, thinking that he had escaped the disgrace of his 
shameful confounding, when the triumphal standard under 
which he was vanquished, bowed to the dust and made cap- 
tive, remained hidden; and the dishonour of the downfall 
which his defeat had brought upon him was offset by the 
concealment of the emblem of victory. But when it was found, 
when it was revealed to the piety and devotion of Christian 
people in such glory, how he blushed to see himself over- 
thrown everywhere; he saw the token of divine victory reared 
on all sides. For wherever the symbol of the Cross is set up, 
Christ's victory and the devil's subjection are signified. You 
know that our old enemy won his victory over the first man 
by means of a tree, and because of that held him and all his 

1 Gal. vi, 14. 


Issue for five thousand years under the yoke of his tyranny. 
But the Son came, as a strong man to the race, that He might 
strive with the powers of the air, and to that first tree opposed 
another, spewing out through the bitterness of the Cross the 
poisonous delight of the apple of old. When the first man, 
tempted by Satan, stretched out his hand to the tree, it was as 
if he wrote the bond of his unconditional servitude on wooden 
tablets. But the second Adam, stretching out His hands on the 
Cross, obliterated the bond of that deadly agreement. By a tree 
then we were enslaved; by a tree also we have been restored to 
our pristine freedom. By a tree we were cast out from Paradise; 
by a tree we are called once more to our native land. And we 
who because of a tree were regarded as enemies have by the 
mystery of the Cross been restored to friendship with God 
and concord with the angels, as the Apostle bears witness, 
when he speaks of Christ to the Ephesians: Tor he is our 
peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the 
middle wall of partition; having abolished in his flesh the 
enmity, making void even the law of commandments con- 
tained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new 
man, so making peace, and that he might reconcile both unto 
God in one body by the Cross, having slain the enmity 

The law symbolized this standard of man's salvation by 
many figures and enigmas; all the oracles of the prophets and 
the authority of the old dispensation venerate it. Every page 
of Holy Scripture is concerned with the mystery of the Cross, 
and is directed towards it as to the head and source of human 
salvation. We think it fruitful to illustrate some of those testi- 
monies which apply to the mystery of the Cross, that through 
mentioning some briefly we may give the understanding more 
ready access to those concerning which we are silent. Let 
Abraham stand forth first; for when he desked to sacrifice his 
son to God, he signified the whole mystery of the Lord's 
passion. For just as Abraham (whose name means 'highest 
father') did not hesitate to offer his only and beloved son to 
God, so the Father on high delivered up His only-begotten 



and beloved Son for our sakes. And as Isaac himself carried 
the wood on which he was to be laid, so Christ carried on His 
shoulders the wood of the Cross on which He was to suffer for 
our salvation. The two servants who were sent away sym- 
bolize the Jews, who, living like slaves and having knowledge 
only according to the flesh, could not understand the high 
lowliness of Christ, and did not go up into the mountain 
which was the place of sacrifice. There were two slaves be- 
cause, as a result of Solomon's sin, the people of Israel were 
divided into two; of them the prophet often said: 'Backsliding 
Israel, and treacherous Juda.' 1 The ass used by Abraham repre- 
sents the uncomprehending stupidity of the Jews. For that 
foolish beast bore the whole mystery, but knew not what it 
did. What was said to them? 'Wait here with the ass, and I 
and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to 
you.' 2 Listen to the words of the Apostle: 'Blindness in part 
has happened to Israel, that the fulness of the Gentiles come 
in, and so all Israel shall be saved/ 3 'Blindness in part has 
happened to Israel' that is symbolized by 'wait here with the 
ass'; that the fullness of the Gentiles may come in that is, 
after we have worshipped, when the fulfilled sacrifice of the 
Lord's Cross shall be preached to all peoples. 'And all Israel 
shall be saved' that is what is meant by *we will come again 
to you'. 

What does the ram caught in a thicket by his horns, who 
was sacrificed in Isaac's place, signify? A cross has horns; if 
you lay two pieces of wood across one another, you get the 
form of a cross. That is why it was written concerning Christ: 
'He had horns coming out of his hand.' 4 The ram was caught 
by his horns; Christ was crucified among the sharp and wound- 
ing iniquities of the Jews, as He Himself complains in the 
person of Jeremiah: 'This people hath surrounded me with 
the thorns of its sins/ When the sacrifice was over, it was said 
to Abraham: 'In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be 
blessed'; 5 and after the Lord says: 'They have pierced my 

1 Jer. ill. a Gen. xxii, 5. 3 Rom. xi, 25-26. 

4 Hab. iii, 4. 5 Gen. xxii, 18. 



hands and my feet', 1 He continues: 'All the ends of the world 
shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds 
of the nations shall worship before thee. For the Kingdom is 
the Lord's and he is the governor among the nations/ 2 When 
Abraham had offered his son, and sacrificed the ram in his 
place, he called that place 'the Lord is seen* because our 
Redeemer, after He had offered Himself on the altar of the 
Cross and paid the debt of our death, showed Himself to the 
eyes of His faithful followers; and so all the redeemed may see 
Him now by faith, who till then had not the eyes of faith. 

As we have said a good deal about Abraham and his sacri- 
fice, we will be briefer about our other examples. Jacob 
symbolized the mystery of the Cross, when he spoke of Christ 
in his words of blessing: 'He washed his garments in wine and 
his clothes in the blood of grapes.' 3 The garments of Christ are 
the multitude of the nations, in which He clothed Himself 
when He joined them to Himself by the grace of redemption, 
as the prophet promised: 'As I live, saith the Lord, thou shalt 
surely clothe thee with them all, as with an ornament.' 4 The 
Lord washed His garments in wine and His clothes in the blood 
of grapes on the tree of the Cross. For then blood and water 
flowed from His side. The water cleansed us, the blood re- 
deemed us, so that He might present to Himself a bride with- 
out spot or wrinkle. 5 Again, Jacob bore clear witness to the 
mystery of the Cross when he preferred the young Ephraim to 
Manasseh the first-born, stretching his arms out over them in 
the form of a cross. For through the Cross the Gentiles, 
although lacking the right of the first-born, have precedence 
over the Jews. And there is a passage in Exodus which clearly 
refers to the mystery of the Lord's Cross. The Lord said to 
Moses: 'Cast the rod which thou bearest in thy hand upon the 
ground'; and he cast it on the ground and it became a serpent. 
Moses was afraid and fled from before it. And the Lord said to 
Moses: Take it by the tail'; and Moses caught it and it became 
a rod again. 6 We are all well aware that a serpent lured man to 

1 Ps. xxii, 16. 2 Ibid., 27-28. 8 Gen. xlk, n. 

4 Isa. xlix, 1 8 5 Eph. v, 27. 6 Exod. iv, 3-4. 



death. Death, then, comes from the serpent. And the rod is 
Christ, of whom the prophet said: "There shall come forth a 
rod out of the stem of Jesse.' 1 The rod becomes a serpent; 
Christ dies. Moses was afraid and fled; and all the apostles were 
stricken with fear when they saw their dying Lord hanging 
on the Cross, and fled from the solid foundation of their 
certain hope and firm faith. The tail, being the end of the body, 
symbolizes the ending of the Lord's passion. Moses seised its 
tail, and the rod was a rod once more, and no serpent; simi- 
larly, when the Lord's passion was over and the mystery of 
the Cross consummated, all the faithful returned to their 
belief, and Christ, having destroyed death, restored Himself to 
His former state in the glory of His resurrection. . . . 2 

You will see from what I have said, brethren, that this 
emblem of heavenly triumph, by which the world was loosed 
from the bonds of her ancient captivity, was adored by the 
Fathers from the world's beginning, and foretold by the 
Prophets and prefigured on every page of the Holy Scriptures, 
That which we adore in grace, they venerated in faith. And 
we now see fulfilled, by the grace of the Mediator, what was 
prefigured to them in enigmas; what they predicted in spirit 
we can behold and embrace with our bodily eyes. O wonderful 
loving-kindness of our Creator! O praiseworthy humility of 
our Redeemer! He deigned to suffer the pains of a most cruel 
death, that He might win for us a crown. He chose of His own 
wiU the dreadful torments of the Cross in order to raise us 
from the yoke of slavery to the kingdom. He did not scorn to 
be cursed, so that He might free us from the law's curse. He 
suffered a shameful death to deliver us from the disgrace of 
everlasting death. So the Apostle says: 'Christ hath redeemed 
us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it 
is written: Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: that the 
blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through 

1 Isa. xi, i. 

2 I have here omitted a good deal of scriptural exegesis which follows the same 
lines as the foregoing passages. 


Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit 
through faith.' 1 

Since then, my brothers, we are loosed from the yoke of 
slavery and have, through Christ, received the blessing of 
Abraham, nothing remains for us to do but to preserve by the 
goodness of our lives the gifts of the Redeemer which we have 
received through grace; lest we who are reborn in Christ 
through baptism should, by living once more according to the 
old man, be condemned to damnation. Let us sing today in 
the church the song of David: 'They are cursed who do err 
from thy commandments/ 2 Mark this sentence well; it does not 
say: e Cursed are those who are not reborn through thy sacra- 
ments' but *who do err from thy commandments'; it is not 
only those who have not been reborn in Christ through the 
water of baptism who are threatened by the bonds of cursing, 
but those too whose wickedness causes them to wander from 
the straight path of God's commandments and to turn aside 
down the vicious road to ruin. Of what use is it to be delivered 
from the chains of the ancient curse if we renew them once 
more by evil living ? Now, the Apostle says: *If any man love 
not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema.' 3 Note again 
that he does not say: *If any man be not reborn in our Lord 
Jesus Christ' but *if any man love Him not'; it is useless for a 
man reborn in Christ to have been baptized if he is not dead 
with Christ to his former life; he cannot be completely loosed 
from the chains of cursing. Tor if we have been planted to- 
gether in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the like- 
ness of his resurrection'; 4 and again: 'If we suffer, we shall also 
reign with him; if we be dead with him we shall also live with 
him.' 5 But who is he who does not love Christ? Which of us, 
if he were asked whether he loved Christ, would not im- 
mediately and unfailingly declare that he did? In fact, he who 
does not love Christ's Cross does not love Christ. And who 
are they who do not love Christ's Cross ? St. Paul tells us quite 
clearly: 'Many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now 

3 Gal. iii, 13-14. a Ps. cxix, 21. 3 i Cor. xvi, 22. 

4 Rom. vi, 5. 5 2 Tim. ii, 11-12. 



tell you weeping, that they are the enemies of the Cross of 
Christ; whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and 
whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.' 1 
And James says: 'Whosoever is the friend of the world is the 
enemy of God.' 2 

Let him who desires to be loosed from the chains of cursing 
and to attain to the full blessing of new grace love the Cross, 
from which all the fullness of blessing flows. Let him bind 
himself to God's commandments by the Cross. Let him 
restrain the unbridled lusts of the flesh by means of the Cross. 
For if by yielding to the flesh we incur the sentence of damna- 
tion, by restraining it we shall deserve the grace of blessedness. 
From the wine-press of the Cross a great flood of blessing has 
flowed, which washed away all the poison of the ancient curse. 
From it fall drops of heavenly grace, which bring life-giving 
moisture to the dryness of men's spirits, and cause them to 
abound in the happy fruit of all the virtues. This is that cloud 
shaped like a man's foot-mark which appeared to Elijah in the 
time of drought, and which soon let fall a great rain. The 
Scriptures tell us of this: 'Behold there ariseth a little cloud 
out of the sea, like a man's foot-mark.' 3 Now it is said to have 
arisen like a man's footprint and not like a man because it 
symbolizes the Cross which was fitted to the limbs of Christ. 
And the Cross is rightly likened to a man's footprint because 
by it the God-man made His departure when He returned to 
the Father, as John tells us: 'Jesus knew that his hour was 
come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father.' 4 
Now Pasch means 'a passing over'. And this passing over was 
brought about by the Cross, as the Apostle says: 'Christ our 
passover is sacrificed for us.' As He came down to us through 
a Virgin, so He returned to His own through the Cross. That 
miracle which Elishah worked is a symbol of this. Men were 
cutting down wood by the Jordan when an axe-head fell into 
the water. Then the prophet threw the haft into the water, and 
the iron floated and came back to its haft. The axe represents 

1 PHI. Hi, 18-19. 2 Jas. iv, 4. 

3 i Kings xviii, 44. 4 John xiii, i. 


God's wisdom working through the flesh; the iron is His 
divinity and the wood His humanity. We may rightly use 
wood to symbolize the body of Christ which hung from a tree. 
And the axe cut down trees on the banks of the Jordan because 
the Wisdom of God deigned to correct the impious Jews by 
the severity of His preaching, standing on the banks of the 
river of our mortality, hewing them down like barren trees in 
the stiffness of their pride. So John said: 'The axe is laid unto 
the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not 
forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire.' 1 And 
when the trees were cut down, the axehead fell down from its 
haft, for when Truth had corrected the wild spirits of the Jews, 
His divinity forsook its flesh and descended to the depths of 
hell. But the haft was put into the water, and the axe-head 
returned to it; for the Lord's body, which had hung on the 
Cross, was placed in the sepulchre, and when His spirit 
returned from hell it rose again. 

We must mark and most diligently consider, brethren, that 
our Redeemer first passed over by the Cross and so raised His 
humanity to the glory of the right hand of the Father. In 
doing so He gave us an example: where the head goes, the 
members must follow. We are signed with the Cross on our 
foreheads; it will avail even more to our salvation if we hold 
it in our hearts. When the angel of death saw both doorposts 
smeared with blood, he passed by instead of bursting in. Let 
no one rely on the mark of the cross on his forehead if he does 
not show forth the truth of the Cross in his works. St. Paul 
showed forth the Cross in his behaviour most notably, and 
said: 'I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.' 2 

Therefore, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all 
defilement of body or spirit; let us arm ourselves to break the 
assault of our enemies, the vices, let us counteract the passions 
of carnal pleasure, and minister lovingly to the needs of our 
neighbours and suffer injuries in a spirit of charity. Let our 
souls be free from all the burdens of earthly greeds, so that, 
hurled on wings of holy desire they may forsake the depths 
1 Matt, iii, to. 2 Gal, vi, 17. 


and returning to their Maker rest sweetly in His love. Let us 
despise all that we see and hasten with unceasing labour to 
that which we believe. This indeed is the Cross which we must 
imprint on all our actions, all our behaviour. This is the Cross 
which we are commanded to bear after the Lord daily. He who 
carries it truly shares in the passion of his Redeemer. This 
emblem will separate the sheep from the goats in the last 
judgement. And the judge, who knows not the wicked, will 
recognize this mark in His own. Those whom He sees marked 
with the seal of His own death He will, as a gracious rewarder, 
invite to partake in the prize of everlasting life: 'Come,' He 
will say, c ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom' 1 of 
Him with whom He Himself lives and reigns for ever and ever. 

1 Matt, xxv, 34. 


Sermon on the Holy Spirit and His Grace 

Dearly beloved, we are gladdened by your request, which 
does you honour; the tearful complaints with which you im- 
portune us are a matter for rejoicing; for during the last few 
days we have, in order to lament our sins more deeply, placed 
our body behind a barrier of solitude and compelled our tongue 
to be silent. You knock, you ask, you entreat me to give you 
words of edification; and because I have passed the octave of 
Pentecost in silence you think that the well-being of your souls 
has suffered, since we have not held much converse concerning 
the coming of the Holy Spirit, as is our custom. Therefore we 
give thanks to the Lord to see you eager for that banquet, for 
we had thought you reluctant to touch it, suffering from some 
complaint of the spiritual stomach, and near to death. And 
although charity will not permit disagreement to arise among 
brothers, I must confess that in this matter your sorrow has 
given joy to my heart, your bitter sadness brought sweetness 
to my breast. For that same cause which has made your souls 
pine in sadness will bring about the joy of true salvation, as 
the Apostle says: c Godly sorrow worketh repentance to sal- 
vation/ 1 But why do you, who read the homilies of the holy 
fathers and are daily engaged in meditation upon the scriptures, 
desire, surrounded as you are by the depths of such streams, 
to drink the unworthy water of so barren and wretched a man 
as I? You are impelled thereto, not by the love of knowledge 
which puffeth up, but by charity, which edifieth. 2 If I speak to 
you as you ask, what am I doing but repeating less eloquently 
1 2 Cor. Tii, 10. 2 i Cor. viii, x. 



what you have already read ? But since you are so earnest in 
your entreaties, since you are gathered together at this holy 
time, and, having come out from your cells as if raised from 
the grave, show yourselves to my view in the joy of resurrec- 
tion, I will, if you command me, and as far as divine grace 
allows, compose something for you in my own clumsy fashion. 
I would not wish to appear to fail you, so I will add a few 
country herbs to the rich dishes of your reading. I hope your 
wishes will be satisfied; for I lack eloquence and what I en- 
deavour to write will differ from the spoken word. But where 
should I begin if not with the Holy Spirit, whose feast you 
have just celebrated, and concerning whom you complain that 
you have not heard me preach ? We will approach our task in 
confidence and without fear, for He of whom we wish to 
speak will Himself ensure that we speak worthily. 

The first thing to mark, brethren, and to strive to remember, 
is that without the grace of the Holy Spirit no man, however 
hard he struggles and strives, can rise to good works or bring 
forth fruit pleasing to God. A tree rooted in the earth draws 
its sap from the ground's moisture; this spreads through all its 
parts, bringing increase of strength and height and sending 
forth buds and twigs. All the faithful are trees in the holy 
grove of the Church, set there by the hand of the great Forester. 
Paul spoke of this planting to the Ephesians: *He would grant 
you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened 
with might by his Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may 
dwell in your hearts by faith (ye being) rooted and grounded 
in love/ 1 Our land, in which we send down the root of hope, 
is that of which the Psalmist said: c my portion is in the land of 
the living'; 2 it is the humanity of Christ, of which the same 
prophet says elsewhere: *He hath established the world, that it 
cannot be moved.' 3 If, then, we do not wish to be burned like 
barren trees, if we fear to be hewn down with the axe and cast 
into the fire, let the root of our hope cling closely in the bonds 
of love to the humanity of our Redeemer, to our native land, 
the heavenly city, that we may grow in strength and power 
1 Eph. iil, 16-17. 2 Ps. cxlii, 5. 8 Ps. xciii, i. 

M 177 


and send forth the fruit of good works. But just as a tree 
withers if it is deprived of the moisture of the quickening sap, 
so our souls, unless watered by the dew of the grace of the 
Holy Spirit, dry up, and are unable to produce any buds of 
good works. For He pours light into our minds, arouses our 
desire and gives us strength. He gives us light, that we may 
see; rouses us, that we may will; strengthens us that we may 
bring about the good which we desire. From His richness our 
tears spring, through it our minds know compunction, our 
sins are confessed. As the soul is the life of the body, so the 
Holy Spkit is the life of our souls. And as the body collapses 
if the soul departs, so if the life-giving Spirit leaves our souls 
they too must die; for without His grace we cannot by any 
exercise of the mind come to a knowledge of God, or enter 
into the things of God; the Apostle bears witness to this when 
he says: 'The spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of 
God/ 1 And he adds: Tor what man knoweth the things of a 
man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the 
things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.' 2 

But do you ask, dearly beloved, how a man may know 
whether he has the Spirit of God ? If you truly know God, 
then you may be sure that you have His Spirit. If, as the apostle 
says, no man knoweth the things of God save the Spirit of 
God, how can we know God unless we have His Spirit ? You 
may, however, well wonder whether you know God. Listen 
to the words of the apostle John: 'He that saith, I know him, 
and keepeth not his commandments is a liar.' 3 He then who 
keeps His commandments really knows God. That is why that 
perfect keeper of God's commandments could safely say: *We 
have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which 
is of God.' 4 The spirit of the world is that spirit which tempts 
men to scorn the divine commandments, to engage with 
pleasure in earthly affairs, to seek the heights of worldly 
dominion, to submit to the shameful passions of fleshly delight, 
to increase their material possessions, and to strive after power 

1 i Cot. ii, 10. a Ibid., n. 

* I Jobn ii, 4. * i Cor. ii, xa. 



over their fellows in their swollen pride. But the Spirit which 
is of God urges all the souls He fills towards heavenly things, 
casts out the chill of negligence and of the flesh and kindles 
them to love of God, restrains the wanton desires of the body, 
and raises up the heart, having freed it from all earthly de- 
lights. By Him men are made unyielding in their scorn of 
material prosperity and strong in overcoming obstacles; it 
makes them humbly subject to the good but causes them to 
oppose unbendingly, by right of their free authority, those 
who do evil; this Spirit inebriates those whom it fills and know- 
ingly makes them strangers to affection for our present life. 
And were not they truly drunk with divine sobriety of whom 
evil madmen said: 'These men are full of new wine' P 1 Is it not 
a sort of divine inebriation to despise all that is present to the 
senses, to scorn all that we see, and to set all the desire of our 
souls upon things unseen; to reject all that is soft and pleasant 
and freely to suffer what is harsh and difficult for love of God ? 
We must persevere in prayer, brethren, that such drunkenness 
may be granted to us; we must thirst after it with the dry 
mouth of the spirit. 

Our souls then must seek this Spirit without ceasing; by His 
quickening they live, by His light they see, by His teaching 
they know, by His leadership they come by the unhindered 
way of love to their native country. Let us then ask of our 
God, not as the poor entreat the rich of this world, for money, 
or food, or clothing for our naked bodies, for He who forbade 
us to be anxious and careful of these things knows that we 
have need of them; but let us implore Him to give us that 
which we need more than anything else, and which it most 
delights Him to give to those who ask fot it. We must demand 
without ceasing that which He Himself urges us to demand 
and gives us certain hope of receiving. For if we ask, if we 
knock *it shall be opened unto us; and our heavenly Father 
will give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him'. 2 But we who 
beg alms from our source of riches should, in order to receive 
in plenty, borrow from the poor of this world our mode of 
1 Acts ii, 13. 2 Luke xi, 9, 13, 


asking. For when poor men are anxious to receive something 
from men in high station they loosen the mouths of their 
wallets, and, being ready to receive, cry out as loudly as they 
can, so that they may, as soon as they are seen through the 
window, receive alms. Our wallets are our hearts; if we wish 
to receive into them the gifts of heavenly grace, we must 
empty them of the old leaven of earthly desires. And we en- 
large our wallets if we long for heavenly gifts in a fire of 
perfect love. Paul certainly loosed the mouth of this wallet, 
for he said: tf O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, 
our heart is enlarged.' 1 And he urges them to loose it: 'Ye are 
not straitened in us'; 2 and again: 'I speak as unto my children: 
be ye also enlarged.' 3 Let us note how another poor man pre- 
pared himself to receive gifts from above; he cried, he shouted, 
he implored, he groaned with the voice of the spirit: *My 
heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready.' 4 It is as if he had said 
openly: I have prepared my heart, Lord, to receive the gifts of 
Your bounty, for I have cleansed it from all the filth of wicked 
thoughts, and there is nothing left in it which would refuse the 
gift of Your grace coming from above. I have striven to cast 
out what was evil in it; do You hasten in Your mercy to fill it 
with the gift of Your loving kindness. I have emptied my heart 
and am holding it ready for You; I have dug out all the stones 
of vice, and long with all my soul to embrace the grace of Your 
Holy Spirit. So you, God's poor, hold your hearts in readiness, 
who keep them clean of wicked thoughts. But unless someone 
from the interior of the dining hall hears you calling and plead- 
ing, no one will corne to give alms to the poor. That is why 
David goes on to say: *I will sing and recite a psalm to the 
Lord'; as if to say: I have prepared my heart, I cry aloud 
without ceasing, that the sound of my voice may move Thee 
to pity; the heart being ready, that which is given from Thy 
bounty will not be spilled out. 

Two things are most necessary, brethren, to you who from 
love of solitude live as hermits, and strive after the vision of 

1 2 Cot. vi, ii. 
* Ibid., 13. 4 Ps. Ivii, 7. 

1 80 


the contemplative life. You must be assiduous in singing the 
psalms and watchful in frequent prayer; and you must fight 
against the assault of invading distractions with all the might 
of virtue. Let us then remove all the dirt from the hospice of 
our hearts and strew them with all the flowers of virtue. It is 
God's delight to enter the tabernacle of our breasts, and to 
feast there on the sweet dishes of good works. And being thus 
prepared and adorned within, let us sing and pray and sum- 
mon Him by all the supplications of our fervent spirits. So we 
shall fulfil the words of the prophet: c My heart is ready O God, 
my heart is ready; I will sing, and recite a psalm to the Lord/ 
Let us earnestly beseech our Redeemer and implore Him with 
all our strength to visit, in His loving mercy, our hearts; to 
drive out from them all the darkness of sin, and enlighten them 
with the grace of the Holy Spirit. Thus, the Spirit who in 
regenerating us gave us faith in Him will lead us by a sure path 
to Him who with the Father and the same Holy Spirit lives 
and reigns for ever and ever. Amen. 



Migne, J. P. Patrokgia Latina. 
Petri Damiani Opera Omnia. 

Vol. 144. Epistolae. Sermones. Vitae Sanctorum. 
Vol. 145. Opuscula. Carmina Sacra. Preces. 

See also 
Brezzi, P. and Nardi, B. De divina omni potentia et altri opuscolL 

Firenze, 1943. 
Campana, A. 'Due lettere nuove di S. Pier Damiano' in 

Rivista di Storia delta Chiesa in Italia, I, 1947. 
Gaudemi, A. ^11 codice vaticano del monastero di Acereta* in 

Studi medievali^ III, 2 (1909). Contains a short metrical life 

of Damian. 
Leclercq, J. e Une lettre inedite de S. Pierre Darnien' in Studia 

A.nselmiana> 18-19, I 947- 
'Les inedits de S. Pierre Damien' in Revue Benedictine, 67, 

Wilmart, A. c Une lettre inedite de S. Pierre Damien a Timpera- 
trice Agnes' in Revue Benedictine, 44, 1932. 


Albers, P. 'Cassians Einfluss auf die Regel des heil. Benedikt' in 
Studien und Mitteilungen %ur Geschichte des Benediktiner- 
Ordens, 46 (1923). 

Berliere, U. LJOrdre Monastlque. Maredsous, 1912. 
UA.scese Benedictine. Paris and Maredsous, 1927. 
Biron, R. S. Pierre Damien. Paris, 1908. 

Blum, O. J. St. Peter Damian; His Teaching on the Spiritual Life. 
Washington, 1947. 



Borino, G. B. (ed.) Studi Gregorian!. 

Butler, C. Benedictine Monachism. London, 1924. 

Capecelatro, A. Storia di S. Pier Damiano e del suo tempo. 

Firenze, 1862. 
Chadwick, O. John Cassian. A. Study in Primitive Monasticism* 

Cambridge, 1950. 

Delatte, P. Commentaire sur la regie de S, Benoit. Paris, 1913. 
Dresdner, A. Kulturund Sittengeschichte der italienischen Geist- 

lichkeit im 10 und 11 Jahrhunderten. Breslau, 1890. 
Dressier, F. Petrus Damianl: Leben und Werk (Studia Anselmiana 

34). Rome, 1954. 
Endres, J. Tetrus Damiani und die weltliche Wissenschaft* in 

Beitrage %ur Gescbichte der Philosophie des Mittelalters, 8, 3. 

Munster, 1901. 
Fehr, J. Tetrus DamianTs Jugendzeit* in Oesterreichische 

Vierteljahres-schrift fur Katholische Theologie^ 7 (1868). 
Fliche, A. La Reforme Gregorienne. Louvain, 1924. 
Franke, W. Romuald von Camaldoli und seine Reformtatigkeit %ur 

Zeit Ottos III. Berlin, 1913. 
Giabbani, A. *I1 desiderio della contemplazione in S. Pier 

Damiano* in Vita Christiana^ 10 (1938). 
Gougaud, L. Er mites et Reclus. Liguge, 1928. 
Hartmann, L. M. Geschichte Italiens im Mittelalter. 
Horle, H. Fruhmittelalterliche Monchs- und Klerikerbildung in 

Italien. Freiburg, 1914. 
Kehr, F. Italia Pontificia. 

Kleinermanns, J. Der Heilige Petrus Damiani. Steyl, 1882. 
Kiihn, L. Petrus Damiani und seine Anschauungen uber Staat und 

Kirche. Karlsruhe, 1913. 
Lugano, P. U Italia benedettina. Rome, 1929. 
Manacorda, C. Storia della scuola in Italia. EL Milano, 1914. 
Manitius, M. Geschichte der lateinischen literatur des mittelalters. 
Mittarelli, G. B. and Costadoni, A. Annaks Camaldulenses. 

Venice, 1755. 

Neukirch, F. Das Leben des Petrus Damiani. Gottingen, 1875. 
Pagnani, A, Vita di S. Romuald abbate. Sassoferrato, 1927. 
Raby, F. J. E. A History of Christian Latin Poetry. Oxford. 



Viscardi, A. *La scuola medievale e la tradmone scolastica 

classica' in Studi Medieval^ n.s. II (1938). 
Whitney, J. P. Hildebrandine Essays. Cambridge, 1932. This is 

still the best introduction to Peter Damian in English. 
Wilmart, H. Auteurs spirituels et textes devots du moyen age latin. 

Paris, 1932. 


Index of Persons and Places 
in the Introduction 

Acereta, monastery of St. John, 

near Faenza, 20 
Agnes, Empress, 12, 13, 21, 29, 

Alexander II, Pope (Anselm of 

Lucca), 12, 23, 24, 25, 33 
Amalarius, 48 
Ambrose, St., 48, 49 
Anno, archbishop of Cologne, 

12, 21 

Antony of Egypt, St., 51 
Arnold, archbishop of Ravenna, 


Athanasius, St., 47 
Augustine, St., 26, 31, 47, 48, 

49, 50, 52 
Azo, jurist, of Parma, 14 

Basil, St., 47, 49 
Beatrice of Tuscany, 12 
Bede, 48 
Benedict, St., 41, 45, 47, 51 

Regula Monachorutn, 16, 51, 52 
Berliere, Dom U., 47 
Bernard, St., 40 
Bertha, wife of Henry IV, 25 
Burchard of Worms, 48 

Cadalus of Parma, antipope, 24 
Camerino, 20 

Camporeggiano, monastery of 
St. Bartholomew, 20 

Cassian, John,^i, 47, 48, 51, 52 
Catherine of Siena, St., 28 
Clement II, Pope, 20 
Cluny, 25, 28, 42, 50 
Constantinople, 48 
Cyril, St., 49 

Damian, brother of Peter Dam- 
ian, 13 

Damian, nephew of Peter Dam- 
ian, 1 6 

Dante Alighieri, 27 

Desiderius of Monte-Cassino, 
n, 12, 29, 30, 49 

Desiderius of Vienne, 15 

Dominicus Loricatus, prior of 
Suavicino, 39 

Donatus, Aelius, 16 

Drogo, bishop of Macon, 25 

Drogo, jurist, of Parma, 14 

Eusebius of Caesarea, 49 

Faenza, 14, 20, 25 

Fonte Avellana, monastery of 
St. Andrew and the Holy 
Cross, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20, 

25, 27, 32,45,48,49 
Avellanese Congregation, 11, 

20, 36, 37, 48 
Frankfurt, 25 



Gaetani, Costantmo, n 

Gamugnium, hermitage of St. 
Barnabas, 20, 39 

Geizo, jurist, of Parma, 14 

Gerbert of Rheims (Pope Syl- 
vester II), 14 

Leo the Great, Pope, 49 
Leo IX, Pope, n> 21, 22, 33 

Macarius, St., 51 
Matilda of Tuscany, 12 
Milan, 23 

Godfrey of Lorraine, Duke of Mittarelli and Costadoni, n 

Tuscany, 12, 21 

Monte- Acuto, 20 

Gregory the Great, Pope, 15, 26, Monte-Cassino, 38, 48, 49 

47,48,49, 50, 52 
Gregory VI, Pope, 12, 20 
Gregory Nazianzen, St., 49 
Gubbio, 17, 20 
Guido, abbot of Pomposa, 19 

Henry II, Emperor, 13 
Henry III, Emperor, 12, 20, 21 
Henry IV, Emperor, 25 
Hilary, St., 48 

Mount Catria, 17, 20 
Murciano, monastery of St. 
Gregory, 20 

Nicetas Stethatos, 48 
Nicholas II, Pope, 23, 24, 33 
Nilus of Rossano, St., 40, 48 

Origen, 48 

Hildebrand (later Pope Gregory Ostia, cardinal-bishopric of, n, 

VII), n, 12, 22, 25 

Homodei, grammarian, of Par- 
ma, 14 

Hugh, abbot of Cluny, 12, 42 

Hugo, astronomer, 14 

Humbert, cardinal-bishop of 
Silva-Candida, 11, 12, 22 

Innocent IV, Pope, 21 

Jerome, St., 12, 15, 47, 48, 49, 

50, 5*, 5* 

John of Fecamp, 13, 40 
John of Lodi, n, 17, 18, 20 
Jordanus, 49 
Justinian, Emperor, 12, 16, 49 

Lanfranc, n 

Lateran synods, 24, 33 

Leclercq, Dom J., 32 

22, 23 

Pachomius, St., 49 

Palladius, 52 

Parma, 14 

Paschasius Radbertus, 49 

Paul, St., 47 

Perugia, 20 

Peter, cardinal-deacon, 21 

Peter, Cerebrosus, 36, 38 

Peter, scholasticus of Ravenna, 


Peter Damian, St. 
writings, 11-12 
spiritual teaching, 26-47 
the solitary life, 40-3 
sources of ascetkal thought, 


early years, 12-13 
education, 13-15 



attitude to learning, 15-16 
life at Fonte Avellana, 16-20 
prior of Fonte Avellana, 20 
cardinal and papal legate, 22-5 
Petrapertusa, monastery of St. 

Vincent, 19 

Pomposa, monastery of St. Mary, 

Rainerius, grammarian, of Faen- 

za, 14 

Ralph Glaber, 14 
Ravenna, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 19, 


Rimini, 20 

Rome, 25, 48 

Romuald, St., 13, 40, 47, 51 

Sitria, hermitage, 20 
Smaragdus, 49 
Stephen IX, Pope, 22, 33, 38 
Suavicino, hermitage, 20, 39 
Symeon the New Theologian, 

Theodoric the Ostrogoth, 12 
Theodulf, grammarian, of 
Parma, 14 

Venantius Fortunatus, 13 
Vilgardus, grammarian, of Rav- 
enna, 14 

Whitney, J. P., 24, 27 
William of Volpiano, 

(Continued from front jkipl 
that life of perfection which had previ- 
ously been regarded as the prerogative of 
the monk. He was, also, a poet of con- 
siderable power, 

Although St, Peter Damian wrote no 
treatise on the contemplative life as suck 
his writings are filled with references to 
devotional and ascetic ideals, and from 
these it is possible to piece together his 
theory of contemplation. The editor, a 
British scholar who is preparing a critical 
edition of Damian's works, has chosen 
three of his treatises *'The Lord Be with 
You/' "On the Perfection of Monks," 
and "Concerning True Happiness and 
Wisdom" and four sermons which illus- 
trate his theories most clearly. 

Miss McNulty has pro?ided in her full 
introduction a short biography of St. 

Peter Damian and an analysis of the 
ciples underlying his spirituality, IE 
lating from the Bible s she has used the 
Authorized Version, Msgr. trans- 

lation of the Vulgate and, where Damian's 
text differs from both of these, has 
her own translation.